At Nonna, a charming, authentic italian restaurant at the gateway of Highland Park, chef/owner Julian Barsotti pushes all the right foodie buttons: local, organic, and sustainable ingredients; a menu changed often; and a fancy wood-burning oven that spits out thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas with rarefied toppings such as prosciutto and arugula. He comes from a food family (his mother Shelley co-owns local caterer The Food Company), and he paid his dues cooking on the West Coast with, among others, cured-meat maestro Paul Bertolli.
Penne pasta with lamb and tomato boasted a Bolognese-style chunkiness and an earthy, mellow flavor. Sausage made on the premises, served on a pillow of parsnip puree, had an assertive presence and nicely processed texture. Butternut squash soup distilled the essence of fall, with a texture so smooth and refined, it seemed pearlescent.
Desserts were deliberately less sugared than usual—true to Italy, perhaps, but disappointing if you like your rice pudding sweet rather than savory. The wine list was well stocked with Italian labels such as the reliable fruity red Allegrini La Grola, with plenty of bottles under $40.
Located in what used to be Alessio’s, the space is divided down the middle into bar and dining room. It has warm, subtle lighting and lots of natural materials, and the staff seems uniformly thrilled to be on board.
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