Location: 236 East 77th Street
Best Dish: The homemade crab meat ravioli was tasty.
Overall: A reasonably priced interpretation of classic Italian cuisine, but nothing special.
Caffe Buon Gusto’s Upper East Side location has been open for over twenty years. Its decades of service have made it a favorite in its neighborhood and a popular choice for all things pasta. We were excited to sample the authentic Italian cuisine. Having heard such good things, we were eager to visit the restaurant for the first time. There are less than 20 tables in the dining area. Upon our 6 pm arrival on a Friday night, there were more employees than patrons but that soon changed after about an hour as the place filled to capacity with each table buzzing with hungry diners. Despite the sudden onslaught, the staff remained cool and in control, moving deftly between tables making the most of the tiny space. We sat in a cozy and intimate corner table, where we ordered our beverages; a robust Pinot Noir and a sweet delicate Rosé.
While enjoying our wine we looked over the menu of Italian favorites and decided to start with the prosciutto and caramelized pears.
The next appetizer was the Shrimp and Scallops. The dish has lightly breaded pan seared shrimp and scallops over a bed of arugula with an aioli dressing. This was a simple dish and a great way choice leading up to our entrees. Unfortunately, the aioli was a bit flavorless and the scallops were overcooked and rubbery.
We followed the Shrimp and Scallops with the Crab Meat Ravioli. The crab filled pasta pockets were topped with spinach, shrimp, and a decadent cream sauce. Though some of the ravioli was tough most of the dish was absolutely delicious. The sauce alone was rich and creamy, we could have had a bowl of the sauce alone and been satisfied. The shrimp were juicy and succulent.
One of the most enjoyable components of a good meal is the ability to customize your own amazing dish. Caffe Buon Gusto has several kinds of pasta to choose from and a dozen sauce preparations to mix and match. For this evening, we chose the fettuccine tossed with Ricotta E Pomodoro, a cheese and tomato sauce. The sauce was delicious but the pasta was a hit or miss; some bites were over cooked others were undercooked and a precious few were just right. It was like a weird game of pasta roulette. It would have been the perfect dish if everything was cooked evenly.
We took a break from our pasta dishes and sampled the Chicken Pizzaiola, a basic dish of chicken sautéed with sweet red peppers and mushrooms. We had high hopes for this dish but the plating made it look sloppy and unappetizing. The poor chicken breast was pounded so thin it was unrecognizable. Unfortunately, the sauce did nothing to save this dish it was simply bland. The flavor wasn’t bad it just wasnt as good as we had hoped.
Our last dish of the evening was the Black Linguini Fre Diavio, a large dish filled with shrimp, mussels, calamari, scallops and lobster. As seafood lovers, we were thrilled to try this dish. The black linguini was cooked perfectly, as were the shrimp and scallops. Unfortunately, the star the dish, the lobster, was cooked beyond recognition. The meat was tough in some parts and completely obliterated in others. This dish marked the first time neither of us wanted the last bite. Lobster is usually a treat to be handled with the utmost care, but here it was a brutally prepared mistake. It was very unfortunate because we were hoping to close out the evening on a high note.
Caffe Buon Gusto is as the name suggests a good taste but not great. The staff is inviting and friendly, we cannot stress that enough, we had no issues with the wait staff they kept the place moving smoothly even during the dinner rush. Though the staff was superb the food was underwhelming. We’ve eaten at some of the city’s best restaurants but we are not food snobs or foodie elitists. We are just normal people who love great food. We wouldn’t say the food was bad, it’s just lacking that wow factor that makes you want more. The most memorable of the dishes was the ravioli but this distinction does not make it special. If anything, it was the one good drop in an ocean of mediocrity.
Caffe Buon Gusto is also located in Brooklyn. Maybe a visit to their other location will be a little different. Check back soon for our next foodie adventure!