While Center City and its adjoining neighborhoods are still the Philadelphia region’s lead dining destination in terms of depth of quality, it’s also much easier to find good restaurants in outlying sections of both the city and suburbs than it used to be. My wife and I took advantage of that – or so we hoped – Saturday evening when we met my parents and brother at Buona Sera Ristorante in Havertown, PA, for a belated holiday and birthdays celebration.
We chose Buona Sera both because it’s centrally located between where my parents and we live and my mother had eaten lunch there once before and enjoyed the food.
There was a bit of an overflow crowd outside when we arrived, which I took as a positive sign.
The menu is moderately priced and features an array of mostly standard Italian restaurant dishes.
We were seated close to the door and there was a regular flow of customers coming in to the point where people waiting for tables were squeezing into corners and the restaurant’s vestibule. The place really appeared to have a following. In fact, my wife and I had considered going in there about a month ago when another eatery down the street that we had designs on turned out to be closed, but the big crowd that night scared us off. We had a reservation this time around and only a short wait to be seated while they cleaned off and set our table.
Bread arrived with butter. I have reached the point of being slightly surprised when it isn’t accompanied by olive oil at an Italian restaurant; although the butter was very good.
I was having a little more difficulty than usual deciding what to order and thought about going with multiple appetizers and no entrée. But when my mother asked if I’d share an order of fried calamari with her, I changed my mind and agreed to her request while also getting mussels in red sauce for a first course.
My stepfather ordered the vegetable soup, which he made fast work of..
We were all very pleased after finishing our appetizers – including my wife with her arugula salad, the photo of which I accidentally deleted. The sauces for both the mussels and calamari were outstanding and great for bread-dunking. The mussels were a good medium size – the way I like them – and the calamari was perfectly fried and tender.
Unfortunately, the entrees didn’t go quite as well. While none of them were a disaster, they were just okay for the most part.
My stepfather didn’t think his red snapper went well with the sauce that accompanied it, while my mother wasn’t thrilled with her angel-hair and mixed seafood special, saying it was dry and lacking in seafood other than calamari.
My brother’s chicken parmigiana was good, but rather than coming with the classic side of pasta, it was accompanied by mashed potatoes and vegetables. He didn’t complain, but it just didn’t look right to me. This is a dish I was introduced to as a child by way of Swanson TV dinners. I’ve known since then that it should have spaghetti – or a substitute pasta – on the side.
The spaghetti with shrimp in a garlic and oil sauce I had was fine, but again, nothing special. The shrimp were plentiful, but not very flavorful, and the pasta was dry rather than homemade. The garlicky sauce was the highlight of the dish.
My wife was the happiest of our group as far as the entrées went. She enjoyed her chicken with artichokes, mushrooms and tomatoes in a white wine sauce.
Only my stepfather had room for dessert and ordered these attractive scoops of mixed-berry sorbet. I took a taste and was extremely impressed. It packed a powerful fruit flavor.
While the service was extremely pleasant at Buona Sera, and I liked the atmosphere in spite of the excess crowd and resulting noise, we had mixed results with the food. There were a couple other geographically desirable Italian restaurants we considered, but passed on in favor of Buona Sera. We’ll probably give one of them a shot the next time such an occasion arises.
In the roughly three months since I posted my list of the Top 10 Cheesesteaks in the Philly region, a new sandwich shop has gained a reputation for selling elite steaks. It’s out in the far reaches of the metro area, but if all goes according to plan, I intend to drive there tomorrow and report on their cheesesteak Wednesday.