Buona Sera translates to “good evening”, which is precisely what you’ll have when you dine at what’s arguably the best Italian ristorante on the Shore. Located on Victoria Road in Devonport, this cheery, no-frills joint is always packed with locals and staffed by real Italians - not brunette girls born in the mid-’90s with put-on accents.
There’s 'atmospheric' music, about half a dozen slab-of-wood tables, and portraits of Italian film directors on the exposed brick walls. The menu is long but uncomplicated and split into five sections: antipasti, insalate, secondi piatti, pasta and risotto, and pizza. The prices seem kind of average - maybe even a tad high for somewhere that’s going for ‘your friendly neighbourhood BYO’ versus ‘destination establishment’ - until you see the portion sizes. All mains, not just the pizzas, are enough for two.
On the night we visited the kitchen had just run out of dough, which inspired me to order something I never go for when I’m dining out: risotto. I love deep-fried risotto balls, but the standard stuff reminds me of my least favourite student dinner - criminally overcooked Uncle Ben’s with sliced carrots, peanut butter and whatever spices and/or stock I could nick from my flatmates. It tasted like baby food and poverty, and has somewhat put me off the dish ever since.
The chicken and mushroom risotto ($25) we ordered off the daily specials menu was, as our lovely waitress promised, “delizioso”. Generous amounts of chicken breast, olives and portobello with perfectly al dente rice, topped with parmesan cheese, freshly ground black pepper and handfuls of rocket: this was no povo risotto. The consistency and mix of flavours, which are difficult to get right, were both on point.
To soothe our burning tongues, we ordered a couple of Mac’s Golds ($6) from a drinks menu with an extensive selection of reasonably priced Italian, New Zealand and French wines. There’s also a dessert menu we were too full to consider, featuring the expected range of affogatos and tiramisus and ricotta-based treats for $10 each.
Buono Sera’s pasta is really the star of the show, so if you’re ever in the ‘hood “where time is always well spent”, make sure you pop by for the cannelloni ($20.50): a fat roll of melt-in-your-mouth handmade pasta bursting with ragu, spice and all things nice. And don’t be afraid to come in your comfies - it’s that relaxed.