Buon Appetito

A more recent review of this restaurant exists, from October 2021. Click here to read it.

When people suggested I review Buon Appetito, an Italian restaurant down Chatham Street, right next to the Central Swimming Pool, I looked at the menu online and nearly rejected it out of hand. Nothing about it suggested authenticity; I’ve never been to Italy, but from the looks of the menu nor had anyone associated with Buon Appetito. It was a few mainstream pasta choices, some not wildly exciting pizzas and a few other bits and bobs. I wasn’t even sure whoever had put this menu together had even been to Bella Italia, for that matter.

Then I looked at the TripAdvisor reviews and wondered what I was missing. Almost without exception they were raves: not all obvious shills by people who had only ever written one review for TA, but reviews by real people who, it seemed, had something to compare it to. Other Italians need to up their game said one, among the top three pizzas I’ve ever eaten, and that includes in Rome said another. Well now! So what we had here was the restaurant equivalent of an irresistible force meeting an immovable body: which was right, my opinion based on the menu or all those TripAdvisor reviewers? I simply had to know.

The first challenge was getting anyone to show us to a table. We went through the door on a gloomy weekday night and found ourselves standing there for a good five minutes before a waiter turned up. The last time I’d eaten at this site was back when it was the sadly-departed Chi and they’ve done a good job with it. It feels bigger, lighter and airier, and nobody goes wrong with the classic combination of red gingham tablecloths and plain wooden chairs. The room through the back, where we were seated, is a pleasing square space and the art taking up the whole of the far wall, an Italian scene of an old cobbled street, opens it up nicely. We were the only people there, although a table in the corner was booked for two and had a vase sitting on it with a dozen red roses. Aw! I thought to myself, trying to overlook the rather invasive background music. It sounded like it was being played on a chewed cassette tape.

I still didn’t much fancy the menu but we took recommendations from the waiter, a young, chirpy, pleasant chap who was happy to talk us through what was good. All the pizzas were excellent, he said, and so was the grilled goat’s cheese starter, the bruschetta and the tagliatelle. That made the choice a lot easier, so we ordered half a bottle of red wine and waited to see what was in store.

This led to the first oddness of the evening – I was expecting a half bottle, 375ml, of a named wine with a label on it. Instead we got a plain unlabelled full size bottle, wearing a red napkin like a little neckerchief, half-full of some unnamed liquid. All a bit weird, although it tasted nice enough (if a little tannic). The music got a little more frantic – all Italian, with more noodling and guitar shredding than I associate with Italian music. Personally I’d have preferred Boys Boys Boys by Sabrina, but you can’t have everything.

We shared the two recommended starters. The grilled goat’s cheese was adequate but probably no better than that. The cheese itself was nice and earthy, and it came with some caramelised red onion (I couldn’t shift the suspicion that this was out of a jar) and some balsamic glaze on two slices of baguette. Pretty tasty, although more about assembly than actual cooking.


Much the same was true of the bruschetta. It was a small oval of pizza bread (cooked in the pizza oven, the waiter had proudly told us) topped with halved cherry tomatoes, some red onion and drizzled with pesto. The pesto had the thick texture and taste that again suggested it had come out of a jar, or maybe a tub. The tomatoes were sweet and not unpleasant. The pizza bread was not the right choice for this, because there was nothing for the juices from the tomato to seep into, although that’s probably fair enough because nothing had been done to the tomatoes, so there were no juices anyway.


The waiter asked if we’d liked the starters as he took them away, and we said they were nice. Ten per cent fibbing, I’d say. By this time the happy couple had turned up and were sitting at their assigned table, which was slightly higher up than ours, as if on a dais. They ordered champagne and chatted away to each other in a language I couldn’t make out, and took photos of each other and got the waiter to take pictures of them both. It was quite heartwarming to see, although already I was starting to wonder if they shouldn’t have picked a slightly better restaurant.

It was around the time my pizza arrived that I began to wonder whether Buon Appetito was the most misleadingly-named Reading establishment since Great Expectations. I have literally nothing positive to say about it. I have a friend who sometimes complains about pizzas saying they have too much cheese on them, and in the past I’ve always responded to her saying “don’t be ridiculous, how can a pizza have too much cheese on it?” Well it turns out that it can, because my salami pizza was practically nothing but cheese. Covered completely in cheese, a big molten sheet of the stuff, with no bubble or crisp or texture.

The base might once have been half decent (though I wouldn’t bet on it) but with so much grease it was sodden and grotty. The salami and pepperoni felt cheap and nasty. The menu claimed there was a tomato sauce hiding under there, but some exploratory work scraping off the gloopy layer of cheap mozzarella revealed nothing of the kind. You know when you get a pizza and you wind up leaving the crust so you can eat the good stuff in the middle? This was a grotesque parody of that, in that I found myself eating along the perimeter because it was the only bit with any crunch or contrast, the only bit that felt like it might have been pizza at all.


I have a friend who makes the most amazing pizzas. He makes his own sourdough base, he has a pizza steel, he makes his own tomato sauce, he buys in ‘nduja and friarelli, the whole shebang. Even his vegan pizzas, covered in capers, are remarkable. His pizzas – and apologies for being indelicate – piss all over Buon Appetito’s. But to put this into perspective, this pizza wasn’t just not as good as that. It wasn’t as good as Papa Gee’s. It wasn’t as good as Pizza Express’, or Zero Degrees’. It wasn’t as good as Prezzo’s or Strada’s. It wasn’t as good as Marks and Spencer’s, and I wouldn’t have put money on it being as good as Iceland’s. It was a waste of calories, and I didn’t even come close to finishing it.

The other main, spinach pasta with prawns, was also disappointing. The pasta was overcooked, squidgy and claggy (not for the first time, I wondered if the chef was Italian: al dente it wasn’t) and the sauce just tasted of tomato with none of the olive oil, garlic and lemon juice it allegedly contained. It needed something (anything!) to lift it, and without that it just tasted like student cooking. Put it this way, if I’d made it at home I still would have been disappointed. A shame really, because the prawns were rather nice. I picked them off by sniping with my fork, and I left an awful lot of the rest.


We told the waiter we were really full as he took the main courses away, and that they had been nice. I’m pretty sure by this stage we were eighty per cent fibbing. We didn’t ask to look at the dessert menu and dinner for two came to thirty-seven pounds, not including tip. Our waiter seemed like a lovely chap but it was amazing how often he wasn’t around given that he only had four customers to look after. Getting the bill and paying it were both more difficult than they ought to be, and empty (or half-full) plates were sitting around in front of us for longer than they should have been.

I’m baffled by Buon Appetito’s high ratings on TripAdvisor. I wouldn’t want to suggest foul play, but I do wonder how many of these reviewers are regulars or have connections to the restaurant. Who knows? Perhaps they had an off night, perhaps I went with insurmountable preconceptions, but I don’t think so. I think I ate food which had little to do with Italy prepared by a kitchen that probably hadn’t been there. I think there were some jars involved, and some disappointing ingredients. I think Reading has many better Italian restaurants and, most damningly of all, I think that includes a number of chains; when you can eat something better on the Oracle, you really have a problem. As we got up to leave I looked again at the lovebirds, only to find them both tapping away on their phones. I fear they had about as enjoyable an evening as I did.

Buon Appetito – 5.3

146-148 Chatham Street, RG1 7HT
0118 3273390



13 thoughts on “Buon Appetito

  1. EatLikeABeast

    Wow, even Pizza Hut would have been better than this, I’d wager. Haven’t been to Papa Gee’s yet and this really reminded me how much I need to go check it out!

    Great review either way though – and yes, Copywritingshop is right – you really need to get to Italy. Buy at the right time and you’d probably get flights for less than this meal cost you! Imagine all the lovely ingredients you could bring back as well!

      1. petergriffithss

        That’s like saying they’ve fallen in love with a character on a TV show! If they met the actor they’d feel very differently.

  2. Can’t agree at all, apart from the waiter seems a lovely chap. Six of us went last night and yeah of course the Salame pizza looked like that, it’s a simple pie. It was nicely greasy but not too much, not too thin, the base, meat – and even crust – bit through easily. Those pizzas aren’t necessarily all about tomato sauce.

    I enjoyed the goats cheese starter and finished my pizza, all for a very nice price and timely served, with a decent house red, DESPITE having been home and cooked and ate a quick dinner of three sausages, onions leeks and mushrooms because I’d forgotten we were eating out as well as drinking.

    Says a lot for the food that I easily had enough room as a slim 12st 8lb, 6-footer!

    Your review of an honest and relatively new business in a poor area of Reading was far too harsh – i hope you can revisit your review, maybe even the place itself, and rethink.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Always nice to get them, even if the reader doesn’t agree with the review. But no, I won’t be revisiting the review or the venue and I stand by what I said. I never give a critical review to a small independent place without regret, but Buon Appetito simply isn’t good and I would be dodging my responsibility as a reviewer if I didn’t say so. Especially when you have e.g. Papa Gee across town which does this kind of thing so much better and deserves support. In any case, I’m glad you’ve found somewhere you like.

      1. I don’t know if things have improved since this review but I went 3 times between 2015 and 2017 each time trying to give the previous visit the benefit of the doubt.

        All three would feature in my five worst dining experiences in Reading. The waitress was very pleasant and the interior decor was was pleasant in a twee kind of way.

        I haven’t been back since, but having seen all those positives on TA, before reading this review, I thought I was going slightly mad trying to figure what I was missing.

  3. chris_j_wood

    Not been here, despite living quite close. Perhaps I should, although experience at other places tells me that ER is usually pretty accurate.

    I have to say that if I’d looked at TripAdvisor before I read this blog, I think I would have been pretty suspicious. It has 80 excellent ratings but only 6 very good ratings. Most places have a reasonable balance between those two, if only because one man’s excellent is another woman’s very good. If a restaurant has two or three times as many excellent ratings as as very goods, then it is probably a very good restaurant. If it has ten times as many excellents as very goods, then beware.

    1. Andrew Keyne

      Interesting point Chris. The balance of the reviews is very heavily skewed. If you look at House of flavours or Pepe Sale you can see how suspiciously top heavy it is.

    2. Thanks Chris! That’s the point I was making – if you agree with my other reviews you’re more likely to agree with me on this one. But honestly, maybe you should go and report back on whether I was wrong…

      1. Simon

        I stumbled accross your list of restaurants that you reviewed and i was quite suprised how harsh this review was? It seems as though you went there looking to find faults rather than enjoy the experience, i guess the down side of being an under cover food critic? This review is quite old now and i have eaten there a number of times since this review was published and thought the food, ambience and service was lovely and just right, probably one of readings nicest down to earth restaurants to visit in my oppinion because of the atmosphere, I notice you gave sweeneys a low score aswell which kinda sums things up in my mind, everyone knows sweeneys is a great place to get a pie, period, thankfully sweeneys is firmly established in the hearts and minds of the town so your review is neither here nor there really but for the newer businesses trying their utmost to satisfy and build a local customer base, especially being a little off the beaten track it is a definate kick in the bollocks (which is a shame) – i read your review of Kobeda Palace and definately agree it is a fantastic place to go! I would never have gone there had someone not taken me and have been there numerous times since.

  4. I tried it time ago and the pizza was simply not eatable. I had the salami one and it was exactly as described in the review. My friend had another pizza and it was covered with capers: really disgusting.
    Buon Appetito? The name of the place sounds really ironic

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