La Buca, however, was a place that inspired fantasies.
The restaurant wasn't just underground; it was way underground. After descending a steep set of stairs--heaven help those who enjoyed a few too many pre-dinner drinks elsewhere--you felt as though you'd entered a bomb shelter, and that you couldn't leave. Nor would you want to.
The waitstaff, often in the person of DeNunzio himself, put you at ease, his calm, affable manner letting you know that yours would not be a hurried supper. You went there for courses of food and drink, not for some quick pasta, a glass of wine, and your check, please. Dessert didn't signal the end of the meal, nor did post-dessert port. No, DeNunzio would insist on getting some cappuccino down your throat, so as to momentarily sober you up before releasing you into the wilds.
But the best thing about being underground at La Buca is you could imagine you were anywhere, with the best anywhere imaginable being DeNunzio's motherland, where leisurely meals and casual conversation are staples of life instead of annoying toll booths in a gridlocked workday. La Buca transported its customers in a way few Seattle restaurants do nowadays, and for that it will be forever missed.