Getting to the Heart of Pizza-and-Wine dining: Pleasure
by Lisa Elbert, Tastemaker in Residence
Bufalina’s formula is simple genius: fresh mozzarella, wood-fired pies, and a wine list printed on copier paper, stapled in the top left corner. It’s the work of Somm-Restaurateur Steven Dilley, who has created a space that serves as both neighborhood restaurant and wine nerd clubhouse. Dilley moved from finance to restaurants and New York to Austin in 2010, just as the idea for Bufalina began to crystallize.
Three years later, he had a barely renovated space with a wood-burning oven and an imminent soft-opening. Distracted by buildout, Dilley realized he hadn’t even printed a menu, so he opened Pages on his MacBook and wrote the wine list (in the default font), and printed it on cheap copier paper in the back corner of the restaurant’s office. He could count all the list’s bottles using his fingers and toes.
Four years later, and despite teasing from industry friends, Dilley prints his 200-label list on the same paper, with the same font, two to three days a week. From a $7-glass of Languedoc-Roussillon Chardonnay to a $185-bottle of Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone, Dilley gives pizza lovers (that’s everyone) options, good ones, stripping away pretense to get to the heart of pizza-and-wine dining: pleasure.
“Most people look at the menu, place a food order, get something by the glass, and that’s it. That works for them. For the geekier set, we have a whole wine list that we drop at every table, so if you want to get involved, you can,” says Dilley, who lowers his mark-ups to make wines he loves more accessible. With 40 percent of sales attributed to vino, he closes the gap with volume.
Affordable, approachable, thoughtful hospitality is Dilley’s mantra (one he extended to a second location, Bufalina Due, in Allendale). “The restaurant is pretty sneaky. It’s not especially fancy or anything, but the attention to detail— whether service or food or wine—is high. The enthusiasm, vibe, and the fact that it’s such a laid-back place help make guests comfortable. You come in and get a pizza and a beer or a glass of wine, but if you want to geek out with it, you can,” he says.
In a casual city like Austin and in an industry where wine professionals are expanding their reach, Dilley’s model proves you don’t need a fancy menu, hell, you don’t even need dry-wall, to run a thriving, wine-centric concept.