By Robin Reid
The words “Buono Appetito” are spoken daily by millions of Italians as they sit down mealtime. It is a common salutation in a land where food is notoriously fresh and appetizing. Here in Vermont, we may not be accustomed to wishing our dining partners an enjoyable meal before digging in but if you want great Italian food with fresh, local ingredients and American family flare, Buono Appetito Restaurant on Shelburne Road is the place to go. This popular restaurant also houses a three-generation cooking legacy.
Back in 1971, Geno Cartularo and his brother Vinnie started Buono Appetito at the familiar Shelburne location on the “highway” to Burlington. Today Geno’s son Kenny and grandson Sevie (né Joseph Severio Cartularo), both of Charlotte, can both be found in the kitchen. Kenny still prepares standard dishes like eggplant parmigiana, lasagna, meatballs, and antipasto platters while Sevie makes fresh pasta—linguine, pappardelle, and spaghetti—using his own special recipes.
Sevie also creates localvore entrees and “small plates” for the restaurant’s new menu. The father and son team have merged their cooking styles to offer traditional favorites alongside innovative creations that reflect seasonal availability of local food products. The pizza dough is made with the same family recipe used for 40 years but now the topping selection is wildly diverse and downright exotic. Pizza lovers with a less adventurous palate can still order pepperoni, sausage, meatball, and the like. Regular pasta imported from Italy is also available and the menu includes gluten-free pizza dough, pasta, and hamburger buns.
“At first, he didn’t want to change the menu,” says Sevie. “He decided to give it a try and it’s been very successful!” Kenny was thrilled to have his elder son return to the Champlain Valley after several years of culinary exploration in San Francisco, New York City, and Arizona.
Sevie’s passion for cooking came alive after he graduated from the class of 2008 at CVU. “I used to have to come in here all the time as a kid and do chores and just be here and I didn’t like it,” Sevie remembers. “Then in high school I started cooking and I decided to enroll in the New England Culinary Institute.” After six months at the institute in Vermont, Sevie went to San Francisco specifically to work under celebrity chef Nate Appleman. When Appleman relocated to become head chef at Pulino’s, an upscale wood fired “pizzeria” in lower Manhattan, he brought Sevie with him. “I was making money and learning a lot so I decided to continue working rather than return to NECI.”
Today Sevie is the undisputed Executive Chef at the family restaurant. “It’s great working with family and now everyone gets two days off a week!” Kenny continues to handle finances and procurement of food products. Uncle Vinnie’s daughter Gina tends the bar and Eli, a younger cousin, washes dishes several nights a week. Julie, Kenny’s wife, makes all the desserts and younger brother Shane is entertaining the idea of tilling some of the family land in Charlotte to grow organic vegetables when he finishes college in Montana. Papa Geno frequents the restaurant during the summertime when he is in Vermont and Uncle Vinnie stops in at least once a month.
The bar has seven taps of local beer including a very special “friends for life” arrangement with the Vermont Pub and Brewery. Buono Appetito is the only locale where VPB brews are offered outside of their Burlington brewpub. Local wines and spirits are also served at Buono Appetito. “I like to teach,” says Sevie. “If someone works here, I want to show them what I know… Change is good and I’m always dreaming up different things we can do here.” Recent changes include a new sign and renovations to the front of the building that give it the look and feel of an authentic Italian trattoria. The new patio surrounded by a wrought-iron fence will make outdoor seating possible next summer. Future plans include remodeling the bar room and adding more seating out back. You can count on a dynamic family-oriented atmosphere and fine dining at Buono Appetito Restaurant every evening of the week. For a peek at their menu visit www.buonos.net.