by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
July 2, 2005
Ed Witt is as colorful a character as the tattoos that cover his body. His demeanor and mannerisms convey confidence and precision, and these attributes are evident in the dishes he prepares at Il Buco. Cooking market-oriented, seasonal cuisine, Ed continues to deepen his relationships with local farmers and artisan producers and thus successfully avoids major meat companies. He buys whole animals and uses every part of them. He explains that once you realize where the animals come from, you start caring about what you serve. He no longer puts foie gras or Kobe beef on the menu, and insists on using meats from animals that were humanely raised.
Ed is always shaking things up, especially as a result of the seasonal changes. He believes it’s all about the individual ingredients and how they all fit together. Some chefs only know how to follow recipes, as if these were nothing more than immutable math formulas; when left to their own devices, they are at a total loss, entirely lacking creativity. Ed has the natural instincts and the professional experience that allow him to produce dishes that both interpret tradition and play with innovation. And the latter is an important skill when you use all parts of an animal. For example, when a whole pig is delivered to the restaurant, Ed starts with the head, braising the cheeks and tongue, then uses the livers, and continues to use every last bit of the animal. They even cure their own meat at Il Buco.
Ed’s cooking and his philosophy are a comfortable fit with Il Buco. Owner, Donna Lennard explains that they are not trying to please the masses, but simply doing things that they love. When you do something you really believe in, the customers who visit will come to appreciate your style. If they don’t understand, they may still want to learn and grow.
Il Buco started out as an antique store and still retains the mix-and-match décor and ambiance of someone’s home. Ed’s ability to whip up delicious creations at will completes the mood of eclectic energy at the restaurant. The quality of the ingredients and cooking is top caliber, but you can tell that Ed is doing what he really enjoys and believes in. The collaboration between Ed and Donna results in an elegant, self-assured neighborhood restaurant that keeps drawing a legion of fans.
Click here to read about our craving from Ed Witt at Il Buco.
* Since publication of this feature, Ed Witt is no longer at Il Buco — July 2006.