Osteria La Buca: Burger

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Click here for the map of 30 Burgers in 30 Days.

Pappardelle fume in a smokey bacon and cream sauce. Thin pizzas laden with prosciutto, burrata and the like. Giant, fluffy squares of tiramisu. Osteria La Buca is known for many things — none of them a burger.

At night, Osteria La Buca is a snug haven, offering new-generation Italian comfort food in an atmosphere equally suitable for friendly groups or lovers seeking an intimate dinner. During the day, it's a breezy neighborhood restaurant, where the most surprising thing on the menu is a burger. Served with fried gnocchi and costing $12, it's no ordinary burger.

Osteria La Buca: Burger + Fried Gnocchi

Meat & Bun: The bun is a glistening brioche. How many times have we used that phrase during this experiment? Too many, but that's because it's true. Even among the other contenders, this is one of the better brioches, built with fortitude and plenty of egg.

Ground coarsely but packed firmly, the burger — cooked medium though we asked for it medium rare — has a distinctly muscular quality. This is no shrinking violet. This is a burger that announces its presence with every bite. It's bold and confident, soft and succulent, though without much of a char.

Toppings: The bed of arugula — fresh and Technicolor green — underneath the burger offset the intensely sweet onion and balsamic compote. The thinnest smear of aoli added a garlic kick. The cheese, which the menu lists as blue-mozzarella, tasted much more like mozzarella than blue but added the perfect note of salt and cream. In all, it's a harmonious and excellently balanced blend of flavors.

Osteria La Buca: Fried Gnocchi

Sides: Instead of fries, you get about a dozen softly fried, lightly salted pillows of dough with a cup of marinara sauce for dipping. Not merely a passable substitute for French fries, fried gnocchi seems like a brilliant marriage of Italian comfort food and American bar snacks. If it's not already on the happy hour menu of every decent Italian-esque wine bar in the city (hint, hint), it should be.

Dessert: They've got everything from homemade apple pie to a chocolate pot de crème, but here, the go-to dessert is tiramisu. After the burger, it was too rich for our blood, but our weakness shouldn't hold you back.

The Upshot: At $12 for a burger and a side of fried gnocchi, this has to be one of the best gourmet burger deals in L.A. The burger is great and because most people aren't aware of Osteria La Buca's lunchtime menu, you can usually walk in, get a table and order your food with remarkable efficiency.

Osteria La Buca: Interior

Exercise: None.


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