It's a birthday. By the time you got to the table, you were tipsy and famished--from cooling your heels in the bar owing to the vexing no-reservations policy. It didn't sound like much at first, some mussels marinara and fried calamari to start, one of those 1893 salads--a ski hill of romaine and iceberg lettuces capped with red onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, green and black olives, roasted red peppers, mortadella and pepperoni, provolone and feta cheese, peperoncini, and Italian vinaigrette. Some spaghetti and meatballs, and that yummy chicken with lemon. You started laughing uncomfortably halfway through the spaghetti, and started shaking during the chicken, but by the time the cantaloupe-size bread pudding with the candles arrived, all you wanted was a stretcher and a muu-muu. Oh, well. At least amid Buca's joyful racket, when you drop no one can hear you scream. What a way to go.


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