Rabbit gets the fried chicken treatment at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. CHOW.com Contributing Editor Pervaiz Shallwani filed the following report.
Fried rabbit is every bit as good as great fried chicken—when done right. At Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria, chef Justin Smillie has developed an Italian version that rivals a well-fried bird.
The restaurant is the more laid back spin-off of nearby Il Buco. It has a market, or Alimentari, in the front and a large open dining room, or Vineria, in the back.
The space is an old lumber shop and still has the original brick walls. Wood that was torn out from the space is reused across the restaurant, including the communal table and the long bar.
Cooking with rabbit is common in Italy, and chef Smillie creates his using a three-day process to make sure each leg is crisp and loaded with flavor from skin to bone.
He starts by removing all four legs and then rubbing them with a mix of pepper, thyme, salt, and grated lemon zest and letting them rest for 24 hours.
The legs are then blanched in white wine until medium rare. This keeps the meat moist and the batter from burning when fried.
Then they’re marinated one more night in a mix of crème fraiche, salt, rosemary, oregano and more thyme. They’re finally dredged in a mix of equal parts semolina and flour and deep-fried until the skin is golden.
Each bite is a reminder of what can make southern fried chicken so good, with a slight hint of gaminess that is common for rabbit. The skin is crisp and meat is juicy, with a slight tang and a hint of those fragrant herbs.
The rabbit pairs well with a glass of dry but vibrant Sella Sesia and is a good way to start a meal that includes Bucatini Alla Gricia and a refreshing salt-crusted whole branzino. Just make sure to save space for housemade gelato with flavors like salted caramel and an apple sorbetto with a hint of bay leaf.
Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria is located at 53 Great Jones Street between Lafayette Ave and the Bowery. For more dining recommendations, visit CHOW.com.
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