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Bonos fires up former Ricetta's brick ovens in South Portland

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Bonos fires up former Ricetta's brick ovens in South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND — Replacing a fixture in the city restaurant scene is not as daunting, Bonos Pizzeria & Grille executive chef Anthony Guerriero said, as meeting his own standards.

“I don't want to hear 'that's OK' when it comes to food. If I hear it, It's not OK,” Guerriero said Wednesday as he and his staff prepared for the restaurant's opening on Monday, April 15, in the former Ricetta's at 29 Western Ave.

The business is owned by former Portland Regional Chamber Chief Executive Godfrey Wood of Falmouth, and a group of local investors. Wood is married to Karen Wood, publisher of The Forecaster.

Wood said he prefers attention be given to Guerriero and the restaurant's 35 cooks, servers and bar staff. He also said Guerriero's arrival from northern Massachusetts changed the scope of the restaurant.

Guerriero was most recently a chef at a private club in Dracut, Mass., and previously was an owner of Joe N Eddies Marketplace in Derry, N.H.

“I was originally planning nothing as intricate as this is, but I thought this was a chance to distinguish ourselves as a unique restaurant here," said Wood, who also owns the Johnny Rockets franchises in Freeport and at the Maine Mall.

Bonos will share the former Ricetta's spot with a separately owned restaurant tentatively called Evergreen Chinese, which is still under construction. Bonos will seat 100.

The restaurant has new decor and equipment, and a state-of-the-art digital system to keep track of orders, Wood said. But the brick ovens that made Ricetta's distinctive will be the basis for the extensive menu Guerriero has planned.

“All the stuff I am bringing up here, people have never had before,” the chef vowed. Pizza will still be a staple, but there will be specialties including oven-roasted mussels, Philly cheese steak egg rolls, and zeppoles – Italian doughnuts filled with ricotta cheese and drizzled with Nutella.

Before opening on Patriots Day, the staff will have cooked and served the entire menu for friends and family over two nights this week. Wood and Guerriero said there were plenty of last-minute details.

On Wednesday, Guerriero was instructing cooks how to properly cut onions for caramelizing, and he and cooks Maxx Bouchard and Luke Fuller were learning the intricacies of fueling the wood-fired brick ovens.

At a nearby table, bar manager Nicole Germano trained a half dozen servers on proper ways to open and pour wines.

Ricetta's opened in 1989 and closed in March 2011. Wood said the location is even better now, because of residential and commercial development in the area. He expects to attract diners from new developments like the Brick Hill neighborhood, and a lunch crowd from nearby medical offices.

With a varied menu using many locally sourced ingredients, Guerriero said he is ready to go.

“I can't do ordinary,” he said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.