Jonathan Wish is a classically trained sushi chef, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to find Maki rolls on the menu at Buono Appetito any time soon. Wish knows the restaurant’s loyal customers are happy with the way things are so he has no intention of making any changes now that he has purchased the much beloved Shelburne Road establishment.
“I fell in love with Buono,” Wish said. “I knew it was for sale and I thought it was a great opportunity. There’s a hole in the restaurant market when it comes to Italian food.” Wish explained that although there are a number of Chittenden County pizzerias which also serve spaghetti and a number of high end restaurants, there are very few places which honor the tradition of what he calls “classic family-style Italian food.”
Wish believes that with the closing of Bove’s in Burlington, Buono Appetito, which was founded in 1971, is the longest standing Italian restaurant in Vermont. “It’s a place that uses fresh ingredients and the right techniques to make a wholesome meal,” he said. “It stood out to me as a place that’s doing the right things and maybe has room for improvement. I want to take what they’re doing that’s fantastic and not touch it and then take what they’re doing well and perhaps modernize and update things.”
Wish has been in the food business for 25 years in restaurants ranging from diners like the IHOP in South Burlington to fine dining establishments. Through his Williston-based company, Wow, That’s Good Food!, he owns several Vermont eateries including the Vermont Tap House in Williston, Noonie’s Deli in Middlebury and Burlington, and Bayview Eats in Colchester which he intends to rename Bayview Bar and Grill. He is the former owner of Grazers in Williston.
Wish intends to keep Buono’s classics like chicken parmesan but perhaps add some new dishes to the seasonal menus. He is particularly proud of a crab cake with pesto aioli that he has just added and he is hoping to slowly introduce other specials. He intends to keep the décor casual but he wants to update it with a cleaner, more modern look. As of April 1, the restaurant will increase its hours to include both lunch and dinner, seven days a week. They will also begin delivery service to Shelburne and parts of South Burlington.
Wish is thrilled that all of Buono’s current staff have agreed to stay at the restaurant. “I’m extremely impressed with the staff here,” he said. “They love the place and they’re good at what they do. They’re a family and they’ve welcomed me with open arms.” Wish also has kind words for the Cartularo family who started the restaurant. “We’ve become the best of friends,” he said. “You don’t see that happen very often. I couldn’t be more thankful to them for the smooth transition.”
Wish may be an owner but these days you’ll find him hard at work in the kitchen at Buono’s. “I’m here to cook and to meet people,” he said. “I want to get to know the restaurant and the community. I’m looking forward to living up to the tradition here and doing right by Shelburne.”