Often times when I meet someone new and world foods come up as a topic I write about, the new person will ask "Oh, so what is your favorite Italian/French restaurant?" For me, this question is the equivalent of studying all night for an important test, thinking you know everything coming, then having no idea how to answer the first problem.
I started this site with an idea that meals would cost $20 and under and usually Italian doesn't fit that bill unless it is a Sicilian sandwich in Bensonhurst, or something comparable in feeling and price. Over time the price point has become less strict, although most of the meals here certainly are economical, but I thought I should give more due to the more regional inventive kitchens in the city. I might not be hitting Mulberry Street anytime soon, but quality places like uptown's Bono Trattoria do exist, so why not?
There were two items from Robert Sietsema's write up from September that we absolutely could not resist, the first being the grilled octopus ($12, above), very simply cooked and a bit softer than expected. It is a good dish to divvy up between at least three people and get the meal started.
The roasted beets ($9, below) spoke to us from the menu but did not do much for our mouths. In fact, only a few of them are used to cover the arugula, which makes for the bulk of this salad.
With such a beautiful white oven designed as the centerpiece of the restaurant, we were hoping for good things from within it, ordering two of the Neapolitan-style pizzas. Thankfully the well-crafted pies here do not disappoint, and are of very good value. While not quite a vegetarian option, the capricciosa ($13, below) served as our vehicle of plant life with its mushrooms and artichokes. The ham took second fiddle.
Even better was the bona ($13, below), where sweet sausage was king and really brought out a flavorful punch in each slice. The menu lists ten options, and we would not be afraid to try others on a return visit.
There were some leftovers, and sadly like usual, a Neapolitan pizza does just not have a thick enough crust to manage a sitting overnight even if put back in the oven for warming. Our fault though, we should have been hungrier obviously. Plan your meals here as to not take home the doggy bag.
The winner of the night, and definitely a reason to journey here if traveling from the south is the amazing strozzapreti alla Norcina ($13, below), an Umbrian truffle-cream sauce defined by mushrooms and more sweet sausage. The photo below seems small, but the portion is decent, definitely a viable option for a quick lunch or light dinner.
When I walked out of the restaurant carrying the box filled with our leftover slices, a resident of the area asked me where it was obtained. I pointed right behind me and he seemed to see the facade for the first time, the expression on his face betraying his immediate skepticism. Bono definitely has a different feel than most of it's neighbors here in the 150's, so it will be interesting to see if it can settle in, and if so, how. In warmer months it must swing its two windowed facades open, letting it become part of the street, and hopefully creating this interaction beneficial to all.