I’m Dining Out Here
by Andrew Sprague
There aren’t many couples on the Island with as much experience in the restaurant business as Hooie Larter and Ian MacIsaac. MacIsaac was a chef for years at Sirenella Ristorante in Charlottetown, not to mention stints at the Claddagh Room and Off Broadway. Larter has worked all over the place including the Merchantman Pub, the Island Rock Cafe in its heyday, and Casa Mia, the old Casa Mia, where Formosa Tea House was most recently. Between them, they logged over 55 years experience in restaurants all over the city. That makes them feel a touch old, but it hasn’t prevented them from beginning a new phase of their service industry careers as the proud owners of the Island’s newest Italian eatery.
Buono Mangia, which translates to good eats in Italian, is on Kent Street in Charlottetown in the former Mr. Big Subs, next to the City Taxi stand which also used to be, among other things, Mr. Big Subs. It’s a small space, but quaint and tastefully decorated with black marble topped tables and padded, black wooden chairs. There’s seating for about twenty-two people all together. There are a couple of half booths as well as one very intimate full booth clearly not meant for large individuals. It’s a bright, clean and simple space.
Just about everything on the menu is made from scratch on site including every variety of pasta, the sausage, all broths and sauces, all condiments and breads, and surprisingly, the ricotta and goat cheese (I asked, but they have no room for a goat on site). Even the meat for the meat sauce is ground in house, and all of it by MacIsaac himself. In fact, there are only two staff at Buono Mangia and they’re the owners. I can’t imagine how much time they spend in the kitchen for prep alone. The results are impressive.
My father and I were in for lunch in mid-September. Most lunch items were just north, or just south of ten dollars (dinner menu entrees run fourteen to twenty). There were five pasta selections including lasagna, cannelloni, linguine and mushroom, and two fettuccines; carbonara and sausage. They also serve minestrone, seafood chowder, caesar salad, pizza, chicken parmesan, and pan fried haddock.
Dad decided on sausage fettuccine in a spicy cream sauce, that day’s special. I had a bite and it was pretty tasty. The sauce had a fair bit of zip and dad was quick to point out that it didn’t “build on him.” The sausage was pretty good too with hints of fennel and nutmeg. I had the chicken parmesan. It was delicious. The chicken portion was substantial to say the least. It was seasoned just enough to add flavour without masking the taste of the chicken. The tomato sauce was tangy without being overpowering and there was more than enough cheese. Above all else, I was impressed with the side of fettuccine alfredo. The pasta was beautifully tender. I savoured every bite. I was left wondering if there’s a better ten dollar plate of food available in Charlottetown.
The ice cream and cookie, the banana sticky date pudding and the apple cobbler were each tempting in their own way, and they were all entirely homemade, but time and fullness prevented us. The bill without drinks was 21 dollars.
You have to admire the effort these two restaurant veterans are putting in at Buono Mangia. By preparing everything from scratch they have to put more time and effort into a business where substantial time and effort are required to begin with. At Buono Mangia that dedication results in delicious, healthy food at a great price.