Midtown Village magnates Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, owners of Barbuzzo, Lolita, Jamonera, Grocery, Open House and Verde, were extremely busy this summer. Not only is there a liquor license and renovations in the works for Lolita, but the dynamic pair have also been working on spaces within the Independent Hotel.
And now, Philadelphia, we get to reap the rewards of their labors.
The team’s uber-charming casual Italian-American eatery Little Nonna’s is set to open on Wednesday, September 4.
With Nonna’s, Turney and Safran put their signature spin on traditional “red sauce” restaurants, elevating time-honored Italian classics with creative flair, expert technique and fresh ingredients.
By Wednesday, the much-anticipated jewel-box restaurant will have its kitchen cooking, its bar stocked and its tables set, ready to feed the Midtown Village neighborhood a lip-smacking selection of home-style comfort food like fresh mozzarella, house-ground meatballs with cheesy polenta and crabs and spaghetti.
Read on for an overview of what to expect when you visit Little Nonna’s for dinner in the coming weeks.
Situated on 13th and Locust streets, Little Nonna’s is the smaller of the two restaurant spaces in the Independent Hotel with just 37 seats indoors and 40 more seats on the tucked-away garden courtyard.
Inside, the renovated space offers up a polished-yet-cozy dining atmosphere, much like its sister restaurants, with whimsical touches everywhere you look. Reminiscent of the family-owned Italian restaurants of the Fifties, Nonna’s was assembled under the watchful eyes of Turney and of Safran, who does all of the buying for the two popular 13th Street boutiques.
A long, burgundy-hued banquette serves as the intimate interior’s centerpiece, complemented by trimmings and fittings like lovely vintage lace in the windows, string lights hung from the ceiling, vintage mismatched dinnerware, rustic reclaimed wood tables, kitschy faux flowers on tabletops and tons of knickknacks that could be straight out of an Italian grandmother’s living room.
Outside, the enchanting courtyard patio may just be one of the loveliest spots in the city to enjoy a meal when the weather is fine. More lights twinkle above after the sun goes down, tabletops will benefit from candlelight and the walls are hung with clotheslines draped with vintage aprons and lace doilies.
Tapping the spirit of an Italian grandmother, Chef Turney’s fare at Little Nonna’s is certain to leave no belly unhappy.
Serving dinner seven nights a week, with lunch most likely debuting in time for Restaurant Week, Nonna’s invites its diners to share all the plates among the table in communal, all-in-the family style.
The menu will include everything from antipasti and salads, to macaroni, parms and braciole, as well as fish and meat, a plethora of sides and a tempting array of desserts.
Drawing on the long-established experts of the Italian Market as sources for bread, pasta, sausage and more, the ingredients that make up the menu ring with credibility.
Find Sarcone’s bread (seek out the decadent three-cheese topped garlic bread supreme), dry pasta from Claudio’s and hand-made sausage from Fiorella’s Sausage in a number of dishes.
For a hand-pulled mozzarella (which is slated to be made daily at 4 p.m., just before service), Turney sources her curd from Caputo Brothers Creamery in nearby Spring Grove, Pa. The tangy cheese will be served with pickled pepperoni to start, but later with a variety of toppings that will change on the chef’s whim.
In addition to the cheese, the kitchen will also craft the marinara (with and without meat) in-house, as well as a number of pastas, like the ravioli, gnocchi and cavatelli.
Come Wednesday, the opening menu is set to include such highlights as house-ground meatballs made with pork, veal and beef and topping cheesy polenta, an oversized stuffed shell with ricotta and lamb ragu, stuffed artichokes with olives, Parmigiano and capers, a bone-in strip loin and an Italian mixed grill with an assortment of components including hot fennel sausage, swordfish, calamari and grilled artichokes.
Diners should save room for something sweet, too, with pastry chef Sara May, formerly of Franklin Fountain, whipping up treats worth savoring.
Look for an egg cream made with Manhattan Special espresso soda to accompany a notable cookie plate, an assortment of luscious seasonal cannoli (yes, both mascarpone and ricotta), an apple crostata with a pecorino-studded crust, spumoni with pizzelle crust, and — maybe best of all — house-made Italian water ice in flavors like plum tarragon, raspberry prosecco and tomato with sweet basil cream.
Really, no Italian meal is quite complete without a nice glass of vino to sip alongside. To pair with the bold flavors of the Italian-American fare, Nonna’s pours all Italian wines by the glass and bottle.
Focusing on small, artisanal Italian producers and food-friendly modern varietals, the Piedmont- and Abruzzo-heavy by-the-glass list includes six white wines and six red, all for $10 a glass or $40 a bottle. Additionally, a range of loftier wines will be available by the bottle.
Beyond the wine, diners can sip on classic cocktails like the Negroni or Scroppino (a refreshing swirl of lemon sorbet, vodka and prosecco), and amaros like Nonino, Ramazzoti and Averna.
We can’t wait to raise a glass to this new addition to the Midtown Village dining scene.
Little Nonna’s Opening
When: Wednesday, September 4
Where: 1234 Locust Street
Cost: Pay as you go
More info: www.littlenonnas.com