Gibsons is abuzz with chatter about the town’s newest restaurant, Buono Osteria . This gorgeous space that overlooks the marina on Marine Drive and is bringing a new brand of authentic, family-style Italian dining to the Sunshine Coast.
Buono Osteria is all about upscale cuisine in a casual atmosphere with a focus on fresh, seasonal and local ingredients. Co-owners Mike Buono and Ryan Kingsberry have meticulously curated a friendly and welcoming dining experience with locals in mind.
Mike, Osteria’s executive chef, is the son of Wally Buono, a first generation immigrant from Italy. You may recognize the Buono name. For many years Wally coached and played for the CFL including the BC Lions. While he’s widely known for his community involvement and dynamic personality, his lesser-known passion for food is ultimately what shaped Mike’s keen interest in pursuing a culinary career.
“Some of my earliest memories as a three- or four-year-old kid are my dad calling me over to taste sauce and saying: ‘Tell me what it needs,’” Mike reminisces. “My love for food was instilled at a young age due to the cultural heritage.”
From wood fired oven pizzas to homemade pastas to a variety of decadent tasting plates, the menu is jam-packed with familiar favourites from the Old Country. While the essence of Italian cuisine remains, Mike adds a personal touch, inspired by his fine dining experience.
“A lot of the dishes are classic dishes for me and my family - things that we did on a regular basis every Sunday,” says Mike. “The tradition of waking up and making the pizza dough and cooking the sauce and the meatballs - that’s just an inherent part of our culture.”
Highlight include the the L’uovo pizza, featuring a poached egg on top for ooey gooey goodness, as well as the Fungi pizza featuring wild mushrooms and traditional fonduta truffle cheese sauce. Meanwhile, the English Pea Agnolotti pasta offers a delicately layered flavour profile - and a very nostalgic taste of home for me.
Kids are welcome in the restaurant. Ryan says that’s why they open early - to allow for a quick stop for food (and a glass of wine for the parents) before bedtime. The kids will especially love the Margarita pizza, which is packed with delicious unprocessed ingredients and most importantly, lots of cheese.
With such a mouth watering menu (which has gluten free options!), it’s only natural that the drink and craft cocktail menu has been carefully created to complement. In addition to a great selection of BC wines and beers, Buono Osteria also offers a selection of Amaro based cocktails. This infused herb and botanical-infused liquor- traditionally called a “digestif” - is extremely popular in Europe and makes for a great before or after meal tipple.
The menu is only part of the experience, however. The interior design is stunning. Mike and Ryan worked with my friends at Hanson Land and Sea to build bold wood detailing within the space. In fact, some of the feature pieces are built from a 1,000-year-old log the Hansons salvaged less than 10-kilometres from the restaurant.
The 92-seat restaurant has regular table seating, as well as bar seating near the open plan kitchen, where you’ll have the opportunity to watch food preparation and have a chat with Chef Mike. There is also a gorgeous private room overlooking the marina, which can be rented out for special occasions.
Considering Ryan and Mike only took possession of the space in February, it’s astounding how much work they’ve done to prepare for their launch this month. That’s because their vision for a restaurant began long before they entered the space. Mike and Ryan - both who have long standing careers in the culinary world - began working in Vancouver kitchens together three years ago and instantly clicked.
It wasn’t long before Mike and his wife decided to move to the Sunshine Coast from their home in Vancouver. Mike’s wife had grown up on The Coast, her family was here, real estate was affordable and they wanted a quieter lifestyle.
“The first time Mike showed me the Sunshine Coast … immediately, I knew that this was home,” says Ryan, an Ontario native. He made the pilgrimage to The Coast soon after and now has an apartment in Gibsons and also a trailer on property up at Earl’s Cove, which he adores visiting often.
What Mike and Ryan are most proud of is the fact that they have assembled an all-star team and worked closely with local residents to build a space for the community.
“Ultimately, we’ve come up with a product that’s custom made for the people here. We love the fact that we’re in a tourist town. The tourists are great, they bring something really special to us,” says Ryan, Buono Osteria’s hospitality director. “But ultimately we want to be a local’s spot that caters to the locals of the town.”
Ryan offers a key insight for any business starting out here on the Sunshine Coast: “We recognize that we’re in the relationship business first and the food and drink business second. Our success and what is going to separate us from everybody else is the relationships that we have with our community and with our staff.”