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  • Excerpt from RECIPE FOR SUCCESS in

    June 1996, by Evelyne Slomon

    Bucci's roots are long and deep, going back over 25 years when the peripatetic trio of Leslie Julian, Amelia Bucci and Paul Camardo struck up a friendship in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Julian, who acknowledges that he came from a "sterile '50s American home economist food background," says that all he knows about food is "what he's eaten over the last 25 years with his friends Bucci and Camardo."

    Culinary Roots
    Their education began when they first socialized, eating out in local restaurants. Sharing food and each other's company brought them together. So they decided to move into a big, old Victorian house on Broadway and continue sharing their meals and their lives on a regular basis. The Broadway house was the sight of many, many feasts with streams of friends. With its two kitchens and huge dining room, the house was, in a sense, their first restaurant. It was on these occasions that they began to develop their sense of community--of groups of people coming together to enjoy good food and stimulating conversation.

    For Bucci and Camardo, who both hail from the same part of Syracuse's Italian North End, this way of life, this expression through he making and sharing of food in a communal, family way, had been a really big part of their lives. And now, away from home, they yearned for it.

    Camardo, who was a Ph.D. student of anthropology at Harvard before becoming the most erudite pizzaiolo I've ever known, says that while growing up, "he was always attracted to the kitchen because it was where magic and all of the interesting things happened." It became his desire to recreate a similar mood of magic and interesting things in a restaurant. To this day, he persists maintaining that spirit at Bucci's.

    During this time in Cambridge, both Camardo and Bucci developed an interest in pizza. For Bucci, it developed out of necessity--neither Cambridge nor nearby Boston had a local bakery that sold bread dough by the pound for the purpose of making pizza like the old-fashioned bakeries back home. No one in Syracuse made their own pizza dough; that was something you could buy from your local bakery.

    Neither Bucci nor Camardo grew up eating sliced pizza. Back in the '50s, when they went out for pizza they went to a pizza parlor--a restaurant that served pizza and pasta and other items. The thin kind of pizza, served by the whole pie, was the kind of pizza we ate out," recalls Bucci. Thick crust pizza made in a pan was the homemade kind. It was the idea of having to make her own homemade pizza dough that sparked her interest and started her on developing an ultimate recipe.

    Around the same time, Camardo became a bit fan of the pizza at Santarpio's in Boston and a devotee of the resident master pizzaiolo, Joe Timpone. Aside from being crazy about his pizza, Camardo admired Tampone's passion and great skill. Through Tampone, who represented the archtypal pizzaiolo and a romantic lifestyle to which he found himself increasingly drawn, Camardo began to really appreciate the craft and tradition of pizza making.

    The Dream Pizzeria
    Bucci and Camardo moved back and forth from coast to coast twice before finally deciding to pack it all in and go West for good in 1977, along with Julian and a fewother friends, they made the trek to Berkeley, California--"the Cambridge of the West"--and settled down. They quickly gained a local reputation for their incredible dinners, thus fueling the idea of someday opening a real live operation. Within a few years, under the appellation of Le Clan Ordinaire, they were catering monthly Sunday dinners in their house for 30 to 40 dinners at a clip and functions for a local winery that often served upwards of 400 people. Le Clan, it seemed, had gone through enough auditions. Now maybe it was time to take the restaurant out of the living room.

    Opportunity knocked in the form of a local disco called Silk's, in Emeryville, that was looking for someone to develop a concession in its space. The deal was free rent and utilities; supply your own equipment. The hours of operation for the concession were lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday, closed Saturday and Sunday. If there was ever a chance for a dress rehearsal for a pizzeria, this was it. Hence, the first incarnation of Bucci's was quickly and inexpensively created.

    With little real restaurant experience and a whole lot of chutzpah, the little pizzeria began to catch on. It became famous for its great pizza, calzones, house-made bread, panini sandwiches and a few other simple, peripheral dishes. With great reviews pouring in and customers straining the capacity of the little concession area, it was time to find a legitimate location. Within nine months of the first operation, the trio now had the track record to get started on the next level. In 1988, they opened Bucci's at the present location and have been successful from the start.

    Show Time
    According to Bucci, when they first started out in the new location, they didn't really have a clear vision of what the next step was going to be. So Bucci decided to put in a full kitchen, and the restaurant evolved from there. The first menus were simple and creative. Then they began to branch out into house-made sausage and pastas. Already famous for pizza and house-made bread, now they were trying to make the jump from a pizzeria to a full-scale restaurant.

    'Through it all" Camardo agrees, "we knew where we wanted to go--we just had to be ourselves. We didn't always make the best business decisions, but we played our own cards, however idiosyncratically, and learned as we went along."

    The trio also learned how tough and demanding the work was and how little money they would see for a long time. Eventually, through luck, personality and a lot of hard work, it all started to pay off. Continuing good reviews and resounding customer response within the first three months finally forced Julian--the only one of the three to keep a day job (somebody had to pay bills!) throughout the entire first run a Silk's to begin working at the restaurant full time.
    Coffee Service +: Mon. - Fri. 7:00 - 11:00
    Lunch: Mon. - Fri. 11:30 - 2:30
    Dinner: Mon. - Sat. 5:30 - 9:30

    Bucci's Bar: Mon. - Fri. 2:30 - 5:30
    Serving soup, salad, panini, cocktails, dessert

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    Photographs by Terry McCarthy
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