Much to the delight of devotees across the city, Bufalina expanded by opening its second location, Bufalina Due, this weekend. Now with 60 seats (as opposed to the Cesar Chavez location's 44) and a larger kitchen, Bufalina Due is well equipped to fulfill Austin's burning Neapolitan pizza desires. The opening scene was a familiar one, as diners gathered outside the entrance, awaiting tables with wine glasses in hand, proving once again that if Bufalina bakes it, they will come.
Keeping in the communal spirit of the first location, Bufalina Due features several long tables, which are perfect for bigger groups or communal seating, and a row of two-tops lines the wall for a more intimate dining experience, as well as expanded bar seating. Much like the original location, this second space is sleek and minimal: smart black barstools and chairs, a cinder-block accent wall pulling in the polished gray concrete floors and a white wall lined with shelved wine bottles and canned Italian tomatoes. But the most eye-catching element of the design comes from the glowing wood of the customized tables, bench seating and bar.
"The interior of the initial space is probably mostly defined by the woodwork that my buddy Aldo did," says owner Steven Dilley. "He now has his own woodworking/metalworking group called Cerberus, and we worked with him again on this new project."
Sausage and broccoli rabe pie with smoked mozzarella, Parmigiana and bagna cauda
Dilley says his first location, which will keep the same hours, was definitely somewhat of a learning experience. "The first time around, having never worked in a restaurant, I didn't do the best job with the functionality of the space," he says. "It works, but there were probably some wasted opportunities, and there's definitely a bottleneck when it comes to actually making pizza. With the new space, the layout addresses this, and I'm excited about having something that's still intimate but slightly more efficient."
Before leaving his career in algorithmic equities trading to move back to Austin and open Bufalina in 2013, Dilley spent years experimenting with pizza-making in New York and studied with master pizza makers in Naples. After much research, he decided on a hand-built Stefano Ferrara 120, a domelike white brick oven he had shipped from Naples. Bufalina Due features a near-identical, but slightly larger, Ferrara 130, which was placed in the restaurant using a crane. This oven is instrumental in crafting Bufalina's perfectly chewy, bubbly pie crust, as well as thin, crispy calzones (seen below, stuffed with house ricotta, mozzarella, pork jowl, pecorino and black pepper) and rustic housemade bread like sourdough, buckwheat pecan and baguette.
Calzone stuffed with house ricotta, mozzarella, pork jowl, pecorino and black pepper
Now with a bigger kitchen, Dilley looks forward to experimenting with more naturally leavened breads and expanding on the fresh ricotta, hand-pulled mozzarella and sausage all currently made in-house. A lunch menu, which Dilley plans to roll out later in the spring, is also in the works. But for now, diners can expect a delicious dinner menu that rings true to the original. Creative small plates include beet and citrus salad with olives and fresh herbs, and burrata with beets, fennel, fennel pollen and olive oil (lead photo). Neapolitan pies span from the untouchable margherita to new classics like sausage and broccoli rabe pie with smoked mozzarella, Parmigiana and bagna cauda to the more experimental Brussels sprout pie with ham, scallion pesto, mozzarella, Serrano ham and Parmigiana.
Pretzel ice cream with caramel sauce, mustard seed brittle and whipped cream
Bufalina scoffs at the standard cannoli and tired tiramisus of yesteryear by featuring dessert options like a Meyer lemon tart with lavender shortbread and torched meringue or pretzel ice cream with caramel sauce, mustard seed brittle and whipped cream. And hot on the heels of this opening comes a sweet surprise of another sort: next week, Roberta's of Brooklyn will be taking over Bufalina (Cesar Chavez) for a pop-up on Monday January 25 through Thursday January 28. Dilley has been a fan of their pizza for years, calling the tasting dinners he attended while living in New York "among the best meals of my life." Did he ever think he'd be sharing his oven with one of his pizza idols just weeks after opening a second bustling location?
"I had few expectations when we opened in 2013," he admits. "My hope was to be a solid, neighborhood restaurant, and there were really no additional plans beyond that. I was mainly just hoping people would show up!"
(Photos by Veronica Meewes)