Ristorante Bonaroti has held a place in the culinary landscape of Vienna since 1982, providing classic Italian cuisine in a romantic atmosphere for the last 38 years. Recently they added a tented area adjacent to their outdoor patio, where one can enjoy a sunny al fresco lunch or candlelit dinner.
“I want to thank the town of Vienna for supporting us during this time. We’re just trying our best, like everybody else,” says owner Sergio Domestici, who hails from the region of Liguria in Italy.
To start, the crispy bread, including delectable rosemary-spiked focaccia, is always a welcome sight, accompanied by flavorful sundried-tomato spread and tapenade. The wine list offers varied selections from Italy and beyond, including many by the glass.
Antipasti, or appetizers, abound. Vongole Cinque Terre, fresh clams in a lemon, white wine and spicy garlic sauce, is named after the area that Sergio comes from originally. One you don’t come across every day is the Carpaccio di Filetto, thin slices of filet mignon marinated with lemon, and extra virgin Italian olive oil, served with shaved parmesan cheese. Similarly, they serve a Carpaccio of tuna or salmon, served with red onions and capers. Bresaola Contadina, thin slices of cured beef rolled up with buffalo mozzarella and a touch of olive oil and lemon, is something I have enjoyed since I first tried it on the shores of Lago Maggiore in northern Italy long ago.
Pastas are all made in-house every day at Bonaroti, including Tortellini Casalinghi alla Panna, stuffed with ground veal in a cream sauce, and Cannelloni Gratinati, crepes filled with veal and topped with meat sauce and a touch of béchamel. The spinach and cheese ravioli with a cream sauce—or better yet, gorgonzola sauce—takes me back to my favorite trattoria in Rome, just steps from the Fontana di Trevi.
Other dishes are named after spectacular towns in Liguria. Pesce Spada Portovenere is swordfish served with Italian olive oil with white wine and fresh herbs, served with fettuccine with pesto sauce. I can recall strolling through the colorful harbor in Portovenere up to the cliff overlooking the Bay of Poets so beloved by Byron and Shelley. Of course seafood features prominently on the menu.
Yet scaloppine dishes are always a favorite at Bonaroti as well. Saltimbocca means it “jumps in your mouth,” and rightly so, with that savory balance of sage and prosciutto. Scaloppine Triestina blends the intriguing flavors of cognac, mushrooms, and cream, accompanied by sun-dried tomato polenta for a wonderful fall treat.
Restaurants can represent many things to many people—an escape to unknown lands with exotic dishes, or a place to reminisce and revisit places and flavors one has enjoyed in the past, as in my case with Italy. Especially these days, with travel so limited, it is more important than ever to nurture our spirit of exploration in creative ways. So although you may not be taking that tour of Italy any time soon, in the meantime, you can embark on an excursion of Italian gastronomy—without even leaving your zip code.
428 E. Maple Avenue
Vienna, VA 22180