Restaurant Review

Bona Vita Osteria

This traditional Italian restaurant, which occupies a handsome storefront in downtown Summit, is run by culinary veterans.

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Occupying a handsome storefront on Maple Street in downtown Summit, Bona Vita Osteria—in Italy, osterias are homey neighborhood places—is run by restaurant veterans Rocco Flores, his wife and pastry chef, Adele DiBiase, and head chef Marc Bruzzio. They first worked as a team opening Mama Tucci’s in Madison five years ago and later recreated an expanded version of that operation in Livingston (both have closed).

The long, airy room bisected by brick porticos looks inviting, but when full it bounces conversation off the hard surfaces as a merciless din. The kitchen’s Italian cooking shows respect for tradition and craft, as exemplified by a caprese salad showcasing excellent mozzarella made in-house from imported water buffalo milk curd.
Unfortunately, the sliced tomatoes that alternated with the slices of soft milky cheese were refrigerator-cold, muting their flavor. Calamari balsamico, a creative twist on traditional fried calamari, featured tender ringlets of fried squid tossed with thinly sliced sausage and slivers of hot cherry pepper in a balsamic vinegar and olive oil reduction. The mélange of assertive flavors overwhelmed the mild calamari, and the heavy dressing made the fried rings soggy.

Salads, on the other hand, consistently hit the mark. Roasted beet salad with mandarin orange segments and goat cheese had a pleasingly tangy orange dressing. Equally successful was pear salad with Gorgonzola and pecans over crisp red leaf lettuce in a white balsamic vinaigrette.

Ethereally light ricotta gnocchi with flavorful 100 Tomatoes Sauce epitomized the simplicity of Italian cooking at its best. Not Your Nonna’s spaghetti and meatballs suffered, surprisingly, from bland tomato sauce and meatballs that tasted long on filler. Thin crust “iron griddle” pizzas were soft in the crust and overloaded with toppings—fresh mozzarella, Sicilian green olives, and hot cherry peppers in the Tino pizza we tried. Chicken roasted on a hardwood plank was overcooked.

A perfectly grilled Niman Ranch pork chop was unwisely paired with an over-assertive sauce of balsamic vinegar and those hot cherry peppers again, this time puréed. Parsley pesto shrimp with lemon risotto featured nicely cooked plump large shrimp and a pleasing pesto, but the risotto was gummy from overcooking.

For dessert, fried apple zeppoles filled with tender fruit were served in paper bags as at a street fair; although the fruit was very tasty, the dough was too chewy. Coconut cream pie boasted delicious airy filling but a subpar crust. The hands-down favorite was chocolate and peanut butter ravioli, flaky half-moon shaped pockets with a rich, balanced filling, drizzled with chocolate and accompanied with impeccable vanilla ice cream.

Bona Vita Osteria has a superb wait staff, an attractive dining room, and some interesting ideas. But poor execution keeps these virtues mired in first gear.

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Restaurant Details

  • Cuisine Type:
    European - Italian
  • Price Range:
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