I ate, I slurped and I napped all thanks to the new Italian restaurant on Central Avenue, Bonu Taverna. From pasta swirls, fresh housemade pizza, an exquisite wine and cocktail list, and a remarkable experience every time, they know how to check all the boxes. The menu is familiar and offers a lot of choices from Italian small plates to share, pinsa (also known as Roman-style pizza), pasta, entrees, and dessert. Next time you’re jonesing for made from scratch Italian dishes, a visit to Bonu Taverna is a must.
There are new restaurants opening left and right in St. Pete, right? This is no secret. What makes Bonu Taverna stand out is that I visited three times and each time I was greeted like family. Call me a millennial or whatever, but I love all the little touches that made this restaurant what it is. The interior is so cute and totally my style with a boho feel to the bar, a mural by my good friend and local muralist Leo Gomez, and a grass wall with a neon sign “Love is love”. I mean, how much more St. Pete can it get? Peering behind the wooden wine wall, you’ll see the chefs making all the magic.
Trust me, the food at Bonu Taverna is stellar. Starting with a few Piccoli Piatti (Italian plates to share) is always a good idea. For an umami explosion in your mouth, order the Anguria which is juicy watermelon, crumbled goat cheese and this outstanding pistachio pesto. Always start with something light while you wait for your entree.
Growing up with a mom who made homemade meatballs and marinara every Sunday really set my standards high. The Polpetta, meatballs and plum tomato sauce at Bonu Taverna are just shy of perfect. The meatballs are tender, juicy, and perfectly seasoned and the tomato sauce is so bright and fresh.
Another wonderful starter is some crispy Calamari. Although simple, it’s really something special. I won’t admit how fast I ate this but let that be a sign of how good it is.
I can’t wait any longer to share my absolute favorite dish from Bonu Taverna…the Fettuccini. Some might say this handmade pasta is transcendental. The Fettuccini is created with dried porcini and mixed mushrooms, a divine cream sauce and truffle oil. It’s so good you might even want to swim in the creamy sauce and lick the plate dry and I wouldn’t even judge you. You must like mushrooms and truffle to fully enjoy this dish.
There’s something unique about the pizza at Bonu Taverna. They call it Pinsa which I learned is a style of Roman baking and cooking where they hand press the pizza dough. Pinsa translates to “push the dough by hand” which makes sense. They have four pinsas to choose from and we went with a basic, Regina with fior di latte mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil. I’m a big believer in not overcomplicating recipes, and this is a fine example of how with just four fresh ingredients, you can have a glorious meal.
The Piatti Grandi is the part of the menu that has larger entrees like filet mignon, chicken Milanese, a catch of the day, and more. We saw eggplant and immediately had to try it. The Melanzane is fresh eggplant, fresh mozzarella and plum tomato sauce. It’s like lasagna but without the pasta, really. I was surprised to watch it hold its shape and not fall apart like some others I’ve had. The tomato sauce is really to die for, it’s tangy and terrific. I would have to say that this is a great option if you’re really hungry but don’t want to fill up on a heavy pasta dish. Oh, and it’s Aunty Karen approved.
Okay so maybe you’re trying to get some greens in and stick to your healthy lifestyle. Bonu Taverna has some tasty salads on the menu too. The Gorgonzola Salad is a refreshing bite with mixed greens, gorgonzola, apples, dried cranberries, walnuts, and lemon honey vinaigrette.
You know the drill. Dessert is always on my mind and this tiramisu has been in my dreams ever since. This phenomenal dessert, as many of you know is ladyfingers dipped in espresso, mascarpone cheese, and dusted cocoa. It’s a dessert so delicate you’ll want to eat it slowly to take in every single bit of it.
Thirsty? Try an Aperol Spritz, one of their craft cocktails, wine, or, drumroll please, their mandarin limoncello.
This Mandarin Limoncello is unlike any limoncello I’ve ever had. Sip it for a Florida-style Italian summer. If you close your eyes you might even start believing you’re on the Amalfi Coast.
I believe there are four owners at Bonu Taverna and they’re all very heartwarming humans. I’ve only ever seen them with smiles and open arms. Antonio made my most recent experience so sweet and exceptional as I ate alone and he kept checking in on me. He then brought me the mandarin limoncello which he said they make in house and you can’t find it anywhere else. I was impressed by the hospitality here.
If there’s one thing to take away from my review at Bonu Taverna, let it be that they use simple and fresh ingredients to create magnificent Italian dishes. Everything exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to go back for more. Thank goodness I could walk here from my apartment to not only try to burn off some of the calories but also just crawl right into bed for a food coma nap.
A laid-back Italian restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg.