The Boston Phoenix November 23 - 30, 2000

[Food Reviews]

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Il Buongustaio

A neighborhood Italian joint opens its doors

by Rob McKeown

on the cheap
  • Thai Place November 16
  • Nashoba Brook Bakery, November 9
  • Café Habibi, November 2
  • Flour, October 26
  • Sweet Tomatoes October 19
  • Ba Le October 12
  • Colleen's October 5
  • Replacing a legend is never easy. So you have to hand it to Il Buongustaio in Huron Village, which recently opened in the space previously occupied by pizza legend Emma's. Rather than try to fill the void left by its predecessor, Il Buongustaio is doing what every eatery should: serving the food it cooks best.

    What does that mean for you, the eater? You'll get slightly Americanized Italian basics like pizza, panini, and pasta served with a welcome jolt of personality. Think tasty eggplant parmigiana and the best meatball sub in town, along with daily soups and salads to go. Now picture a sliver of a storefront with gleaming ovens, counters, and a deli case. That's Il Buongustaio, a neighborhood Italian joint if ever there was one.

    The pizza is very good by Boston standards -- sweet and chewy -- and there are nine interesting house specials, such as boscaiola (heavy cream, porcini mushrooms, and mozzarella for $15) and quattro formaggi (gorgonzola, mozzarella, parmigiano, and fontina for $13). The friendly woman behind the counter will tell you that the chef makes great calzones, and she's right. A chicken-and-mushroom version ($6.50) is Italian-American indulgence incarnate: doughy, greasy, and full of flavor.

    But sandwiches are the true stars at Il Buongustaio. They come on crisp, chewy Italian bread -- all the better to savor sassy combos like buongustaio (smoky speck, sprightly goat cheese, and peppery arugula for $6.50) or Italiano (equally luscious buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto for $6). For those looking to fill in the gaps, there's a deli case full of antipasti and salads, although I found both the smoked-mozzarella, tomato, and basil mix and the escarole with pine nuts and raisins to be oily and under-seasoned. However, that doesn't prevent Il Buongustaio from being filed under "Useful Neighborhood Eateries."

    Il Buongustaio, located at 370 Huron Avenue, in Cambridge, is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 3 to 9 p.m. Call (617) 491-3133 .

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