I had no idea what to expect when the retail space on the ground floor of my building finally got a tenant. They advertised that “Casa Nonna” and “GoBurger” were coming. Imagine my surprise when I did some Googling and realized that Casa Nonna was part of the BLT Restaurant Group.
I have been a fan of the BLTs for some time, and especially love the popovers at BLT Steak. There has been a lot of press recently about Laurent Tourondel leaving the BLT chain amidst much drama, so it’s getting quite confusing about who is affiliated with what. But nonetheless, Casa Nonna was opening in my building. Score! There is one already in DC, and I hear it compared mostly to Carmine’s.
I was surprised at how big this place is. I couldn’t even get the sprawling rooms in one photo.
The actual bar area is smaller than I anticipated (midtown usually fills bars long before it fills eateries).
There is a private room with a large TV.
Some awesome pasta jars.
A cheese case (where a waiter cleverly stood behind me and said “CHEESE!” just as I snapped this shot)
And some very cool tables.
But what about the food?
The first time we went, we started with garlic bread. This was INSANELY good. (Strangely, this wasn’t served when we came back for dinner… so not sure what went on there)
We tried a few apps, including these beautiful meatballs (which had chili in the sauce, dammit)
Saffron Parmesan Risotto Balls (creamy inside, crispy outside, delicious tomato sauce)
And Sheep’s Milk Ricotta, Truffled Saba, which was awesome. I loved the truffle sauce and the ricotta spread so nicely.
For entrees, one order was Tuna and Tuscan Tomato-Bread Salad, Extra Virgin Olive Oil. When this came out, the person that ordered this immediately said “I made the right choice!” I look forward to trying this because it looked great.
Since it was lunchtime the first time we went, there were some paninis and piadinis on the table.
The branzino came out and both looked and smelled sensational. It was head-on but deboned. Nice.
One person we were with ordered the tortellini, which was described as Little Hats of Ricotta, Tomato Basil Sauce, Parmesan. In the words of the orderer, “they had me at little hats.”
There was also a pollo paillard salad, which was Grilled Herb Chicken Paillard, Arugula Salad, with Lemon Dressing.
My first order was the squash blossom pizza. I had tasted squash blossoms for the first time at Mozza, Mario Batali’s fantastic restaurant in LA. The pesto on it was good and I really like the fried egg (though I wished there were a bit more. The crust was crispy without being a cracker, but I can’t say the flavor was popping.
These blossoms were tasty, but I’m not sure how much they added to the pizza. I wanted more out of this, though it was very good.
As for dinner entrees, we tried the Chicken parm, which was good and cheesy and with brocoli rabe. It was a large serving and was juicy inside. The rabe was a bit spicy, and there was a bit of disappointment that it wasn’t served with a side of pasta.
For dinner, I chose to have the gnocchi, which came with Lobster, Chanterelles, Pancetta, and Garlic Greens. It was very tasty. The gnocchi had the right amount of give and flavor, while the lobster, chanterelles, and pancetta really added a great series of flavors to the meal.
For dessert, we had a trio of sorbetti (their flavor selections are Orange Hibiscus ~ Grapefruit ~ Watermelon ~ Red Grape ~ Cantalope ~ Lime Fresh Mint). I really liked the red grape.
And a trio of gelatti (flavors: Amaretto Crunch ~ Pistachio ~ Sweet Cream ~ Olive Oil ~ White Chocolate ~ Chocolate Hazelnut ~ Blackberry ~ Vanilla). The olive oil was good, but nowhere near Otto good (you need the salt!) and the pistachio was missing some flavor. It was hard to tell the difference between the Amaretto Crunch and the Pistachio, for instance.
I went with the panna cotta, which came with plums and a darling spiral of sugar. It was tasty and the right texture, but the panna cotta was a wee bit bland. I’d say the desserts overall were a bit disappointing.
It was a nice touch that they served a nice ending of chocolate covered meringues. They were pretty good.
Overall, I think my opinion of Casa Nonna is swayed simply because I was expecting a BLT experience. Compared to the BLTs, it isn’t nearly as refined nor filled with flavor, but it was good. Bordering on very good. It does share some resemblance to Carmine’s (though you can’t count on the portions to be gargantuan in the same way) with that big restaurant, Italian feel.
One thing I do need to say, however, is that the service was impeccable. I think this had a lot to do with the fact that there were WAY too many waiters on staff for the nearly empty large space, so they had the time to quickly replace every fork and clear every dish. But it was nice to see such friendly wait staff.
I look forward to seeing how this place develops. It has definite potential, but I’m not sure if it has reached it yet.
Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10