Review: Bona Cafe, Ponsonby

By Phoebe Falconer

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Address: 286A Ponsonby Rd
Ph: (09) 360 8866

Puttanesca pasta at Bona Cafe. Photo / Greg Bowker
Puttanesca pasta at Bona Cafe. Photo / Greg Bowker

We'd spotted Bona when dining recently at an establishment directly across Ponsonby Rd. We had been neglectful of friends, so thought Bona might be a suitable place for a catch-up. And so it transpired.

On a balmy evening, we eschewed an inside table for al fresco (i.e. pavement) dining, but took care to shelter behind a planter filled with olive trees. Fitting, really, given the cuisine of Bona.

It advertises itself as Italian, but the owners, who are also the chefs and wait staff, are of Italian/Iranian extract, which explains perhaps some of the more unusual pizza toppings. More of this later.

We started with happy hour wines and beers at $5 a glass, and ordered bread and dips. These arrived quite speedily, but I would have been happy to wait a little longer so that the bread might be cooked right through. The dips though were very good, particularly the pesto, but they were somewhat skimpy in proportion.

Bona offers an extensive list of pasta and pizza options, so that's where we went. The pizzas carry such exotic names as Royal Greek Vegetarian and Ponsonby V.I.P. Grande, while the combination pizza was just that, bearing an excessive load of beef, chicken and lamb with double cheese. I settled for the house special, Bona pizza, and was well satisfied with the sausage, fresh tomato and oregano topping.

The others went for pasta options. Annie was sorely tempted to ask for extra chilli on her puttanesca, but was pleased she didn't; the level of chilli was exactly right for one who likes it pretty hot. Charles' fettuccine con frutti di mare contained prawns, calamari and mussels aplenty, bound together in a spicy tomato sauce. It must have been pretty good, as we were offered only small tastings from his plate.

And Bill was happy with his Bona ravioli, a pretty standard beef-stuffed offering in tomato sauce.

The dessert menu beckoned, and we passed on the fresh fruit flatter (sic), opting instead for rum, raisin and walnut ice cream and a berry cheesecake. Both met with approval.

Bona owner Pedro and his wife Mahya share kitchen duties, while Pedro's sister Parastoo looks after front-of-house. In the 18 months or so that they have been running Bona, the clientele and the reputation have steadily increased. Let's hope they continue to do so.

Rating out of 10

Food: 7
Service: 7
Value: 9
Ambience: 7

Our meal: $124.50 for a shared starter, four mains, two desserts, two beers and two glasses of wine.

Wine list: Quite short, comprising New Zealand whites and Italian reds. It's also BYO with no corkage charge, so we took advantage of this.

Verdict: Bona is not so much easy to overlook as quite hard to find, nestled as it is amid others of its ilk. Of its ilk, though, it is very good, if somewhat unusual, and extremely well priced. Worth taking the trouble to find.

- NZ Herald

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