I recently went to Casa Nonna, literally Grandma's house, located in Hell's Kitchen, for a dinner with Erika and Kenta from Tabélog, a new online space for restaurant lovers that has more than 40 millions users in Japan and is launching a site in the US! For sure, I would have never found that place if not meeting people, as it is in the middle of a block, on 38th street. Not that many passersby!!!
I was surprised because the restaurant is big with different areas: the bar, two dining rooms of a good size and a counter next to the kitchen.
Interestingly, there is a small area on the right of the entrance that is a Go Burger! We sat in the dining room in the back; the first impression I had, besides the volume of the room, was that it looked more like a steakhouse than an Italian restaurant, thanks to the dark wood and leather banquettes.
The tables were heavy and made with the wood from wine boxes.
The menu was definitely Italian, but not your basic / classic dishes. No spaghetti with meatballs, but rather veal meatballs as an appetizer. No eggplant Parmesan or linguini a la Vongole as I am used to! But I am not going to complain, considering that I am a big fan of that type of cuisine and their menu had interesting dishes!
We started of with appetizers. Polipo - baby octopus, peanut potatoes, pearl onions drizzled with a Meyer lemon vinaigrette:
I was excited to have baby octopus because I love it! Unfortunately, it was not that great! I think after I had better octopus at Officina Laina or Thalassa,
I was expecting something fantastic...It was a bit chewy and the only thing you could taste was the fact that it was fried!
We also shared the fried calamari:
The last appetizer was the veal meatballs:
For the entree, I ordered the gnocchi with Berkshire pork ragu and crispy pig ears:
Gnocchi is definitely a good test for an Italian restaurant because you do not want the gnocchi to be dough-y or potato-y.
They did a good job at Casa Nonna: they were very, very light and perfect with a pork ragu that was delicious (yoou could taste a bit of wine). What elevated this dish a bit was the crispy pig ears: it added some crunch to the dish: wonderful! Before leaving, I asked the waiter if they make their own pasta and he mentioned that everything is homemade there.
Then was time for desserts! I could try two. The tiramisu:
And the mascarpone cheesecake, served with a blackberry citrus sauce:
Desserts were definitely not the highlight of the meal! So sad, because the presentation was spectacular. The tiramisu was overpowered by the chocolate on top and I could barely taste the espresso cream. The cheesecake might have been better, but had nothing exceptional and did not have enough blackberry sauce.
The food at Casa Nonna was average and forgettable (I still prefer Morandi or, for family style dinners, Tony Di Napoli). Fortunately, the conversation with Erika and Kenta and discovering Tabelog made the experience worth it!
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And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!