In the last few months of a tumultuous 2021, perhaps it’s ironic that Bonanno Vinicola, which translates to “good year” in medieval Italian, opened its doors. Or it was a sign of the delicious eats and experiences to come.
Emerging Federal Hill foodie icon Armando Bisceglia of neighboring Bacco Vino & Contorni founded Bonanno, with Max Ragosta and Luigi Sabino at the helm leading operations and purchasing. They took over two storefronts originally inhabited by Carrara’s Shoes (which moved across the street) and Enoteca Umberto, and now bring a blend of traditions from their Italian roots and a contemporary atmosphere to the cafe and wine bar concept.
Hailing from Johnston and Lincoln, respectively, Ragosta and Sabino are hungry 20-somethings who share a vision of transporting diners to a seaside village in southern Italy, showcasing the simplicity of the cuisine of their heritage in the products they stock. Bonanno is easily spotted on Atwells Avenue by its door, with a colorful rendering of the Queen of Sicily, depicted to represent bounties of both the land and sea.
At this market, deli, cafe, and wine bar all in one, the duo takes pride in selecting wines sourced from the Sicily, Puglia, Campania, and Lazio regions, as well as offering fresh bread and desserts made specially for Bonanno by their friends across the street at Scialo Bros Bakery (one the oldest – if not the oldest – Italian bakeries in Rhode Island).
“We want to showcase the flavors and influences from the southern regions of Italy,” says Ragosta, estimating that 75 percent of everything sold in the store is procured from Italy and other specialty vendors.
Ragosta and Sabino met in homeroom as students at La Salle Academy and quickly became friends, bonding over their Italian upbringings and love of soccer. They later went on to work at Pane e Vino together for a handful of years, advancing from bussers to servers and fostering a deeper appreciation for Italian food preparation along the way.
“We are fortunate to have found our passion early,” says Sabino. He and Ragosta both cite their nonnas as their biggest early influences. Further deepening their connection, their sets of grandparents grew up only a short distance away from one
another in two towns in southern Italy.
Now, having been open for several months, the menu at Bonanno consists of 10 sections (not including spirits and beverages) and feels like a culinary choose-your-own-adventure, except you can’t make a wrong choice. Down to the fluent Italian you’ll hear coming from the cafe, Ragosta and Sabino aim for an immersive experience. “We are here to educate – we teach you about what you are eating, and then you take it all home with you at the end.” Nonna would be proud. BonannoPVD.com
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