Informal Italian: Buon Gusto, a good experience in Huntington Beach
We recently tried the new Buon Gusto, at the corner of Warner and Bolsa Chica, and found it a positive experience. The owner, Peter, said this current incarnation was his third area restaurant of the same name, the last located somewhere in east Long Beach.
We've tried the place twice now. The first visit was early on a mid-August weeknight and it was packed. As we were seated, the early crowd was lining up at the door to wait for an available table. The service at that time was over-taxed and relatively inexperienced, but eager and good-natured. Buon Gusto serves an a la carte salad, which is becoming more common these days. The included salad at an informal Italian meal was at one time ubiquitous, but is sadly disappearing in the suburban LA area. I sorely miss this simple gesture. The house salad is a large bowl of romaine, is covered with pickled vegetables and shredded mozzarella and sports a decent if a little boring Italian dressing. With diner, it's an extra $3, or so. A la carte and it's about $5. Dinner that night was lasagna for me and a creamy tomato chicken rigatoni for my wife. Portions are huge and the entrees cost no more than $9 to $11. I would recommend sharing an entree, unless you've been out digging ditches or pouring concrete and need those calories. The gravy, a critical evaluative point for an Italian restaurant, had clear fresh tomato flavor, was not overly sweet, had a pleasant oregano tang, and had excellent body. Actually a very good sauce. The rigatoni dish was also good, in that the pasta was correctly cooked, but creamy tomato sauces are not my forte and were thus not critically evaluated. It was a very large portion, though, and saw us taking 2/3 of it home. Half the lasagna was taken home as well. The kitchen is competent and fast.
Our second visit found the place a bit less frenetic, but the service was still amateur. It seems fewer tables and less stress doesn't improve the wait staff's ability to multitask. The kitchen continued to show it could keep up with the orders and the food arrived relatively quickly, as it did on our first visit. On this evening we split a very decent pizza (thin, flexible crust, savory sauce, fresh garlic, carciofi and basil - yum), and another salad, sans the hated shredded mozzarella. I believe the bill came to $15, or so. Wow, that's a deal.
One of the best things about the new Buon Gusto is that Peter encourages BYOB (they are still waiting on their liquor license from the good, Christian folks running things at the ABC). He further stated that he will never charge a corkage to anyone who wishes to bring their own beverage. Now, that's worth a repeat visit in itself.
I think Buon Gusto is an excellent place for a quality, informal Italian meal, if you're not expecting much from the ambiance or the wait staff. The food is ample, fresh and delicious, the service is friendly, if a bit incompetant, and the price is certainly right.
Oh, don't expect them to take a reservation. The hostess still writes with crayons and I'm not sure of her ability to tell correct time.....
5005 Warner Ave.
Huntington Beach, CA 92649