When my husband says “let’s go out to dinner”, my thoughts turn to somewhere romantic and special. I enjoy having dinner where the tables are set with fresh flowers and candles. It doesn’t have to be gourmet but I want the food to be at least as good as what I prepare at home. Hopefully the meal will be excellent and memorable enough so that I can’t wait to return.
I thought that I would take you to one such restaurant, Bonta in Hampton, New Hampshire. Bonta meets my expectations of what a good restaurant should be. The cuisine is one of my favorites… Mediterranean and Italian dishes both familiar and modern.
The lovely restaurant is just a few miles inland from the New Hampshire seacoast and not too far of a drive from our home. As you turn into their drive and pass the beautiful landscaped grounds, you might think that you had been invited to share a meal with friends at a very nice Tuscan farmhouse or villa.
Once you enter the restaurant, you are greeted warmly by Alex MacQuisten, the restaurant manager. If you have a reservation, he will quickly escort you to your table. If you are there for after work cocktails or a casual date night, you might like to sit at their beautiful mahogany bar and sip one of their special martinis or a glass of wine.
The interior of the restaurant has the same warm colors as the outside…golden walls and sage green wooden trim. You immediately notice the stained glass light fixtures that create a warm and cozy feeling. The well spaced tables are set with crisp linens, fresh flowers and candles and have comfortable leather chairs. There is a massive stone fireplace in the center of main dining room that is lit in cold weather. The whole decor gives an upscale yet inviting ambiance to the restaurant.
Bonta has a good wine list with a nice choice of wines by the glass. I usually order a glass while I look over the menu. A basket of house made breads is brought to the table while you make your dinner selections.
Let me share some of the delicious dishes that my husband and I have enjoyed on our visits and that I think you might enjoy.
Antipasto of gorgonzola with fresh honey, house baked olive bread, salami, roasted pepperonata, white bean spread, and broccoli rabe.
Artichoke arancini with mascarpone crème and arugula pesto.
Pappardelle with wild boar and sautéed broccolini.
Orecchiette carbonara with peas and candied lemon.
Sole stuffed with crab, grilled asparagus, and smoked bacon butter.
Halibut with cumin spice rub, and tomato torta.
Seared Black Grouper with creamy polenta, swiss chard and a Barolo wine sauce.
Semifreddo with hazelnut brittle, brandy soaked cherries and a dark chocolate ganache.
Bonta has a new Executive Chef, Kevin Riley. Chef Riley is a 2001 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and has worked at the Four Seasons in Boston, sous chef at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, the executive chef at Todd English’s restaurant Olives, and the Aqua Knox at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.
The dishes that he prepares are both traditional and innovative. His menus include fresh produce and meats sourced from local farms throughout the New England area and seafood from the local waters.
Bonta means bountiful and I think it is the perfect name for a restaurant that I consider one of the best in the seacoast region of New Hampshire. The restaurant is lovely, the service is friendly and attentive, and the food is delicious. If you live nearby or are visiting the area as a tourist, I hope you will enjoy a romantic dinner at Bonta as much as I do.