Nonna’s Italian American Café

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I had lunch this week with Steve downtown at Nonna’s.  I’ve never been to Nonna’s and was looking forward to trying their take on Italian.

We arrived about 12:30 and the place was pretty busy.  The sign said seat yourself so we sat down at an empty table along the wall.  Our server came over quickly to take our drink orders and left with a promise of bringing some bread when she returned.

From the lunch menu, I picked the chicken parmesan ($8.95) but instead of the side of fettuccine alfredo, I asked to substitute spaghetti in marinara and also requested a side order of Italian sausage for an extra $1.95.  Steve chose the lasagna ($7.95) with a side of meatballs ($1.95) along with a side Caesar salad ($1.95).

Steve’s salad and bread came out at the same time.  The bread was a soft skinny Italian style roll that came with a ramekin of grated parmesan and another ramekin of chopped garlic.  There is olive oil on the table, and you can mix up your own dipping sauce.  The garlic was especially potent – and with at least 2 ounces of the stuff in the little container – there was probably enough to season 5 loaves of bread.

My chicken parmesan was ok – it had breading on it and was fried up nicely, but the chicken itself was dry and a bit rubbery – typical of a frozen chicken breast.  The spaghetti with marinara was very good and I really liked the flavor of the sauce.  The sausage was good – a mild Italian spiciness – but there were only 2 small pieces of sausage to be found swimming around in my spaghetti.  When compared to the two large meatballs that Steve got on his plate for the same $1.95 – I felt cheated.  I was wondering if maybe since I asked to swap out my side item, they tossed two pieces on for free and maybe weren’t going to charge me for it.  When the bill came and the $1.95 charge was on there, I asked our server if the portion of sausage I received was normal.  She said she would check with the manager.  When she returned she said that I did not get the correct portion after all and I wouldn’t be charged for it.  The manager came by and apologized and said there should have been 5 pieces of sausage instead of the 2 I received.

You can check out the rest of the menu online on the Nonna’s web site.

Service was pretty good – our server generally kept up with our drinks – but would have had less work to do if the glasses were bigger.

The restaurant has the typical layout of a downtown place – narrow but deep – with high ceilings.  The table we sat at along the wall was hard to get in and out of.  The major problem were the chairs that barely fit under the table – there wasn’t enough room to get into a chair without dragging it out into the aisle and then scooting back under the table.  There were only two of us – I imagine it would be very difficult to try to get 4 people seated – especially if the tables next to you were full.

I didn’t really notice it while we were eating (and I was really careful to only put a small bit of garlic into the dipping oil for the bread) but there must have been a tremendous amount of garlic in our food.  The rest of the day I kept burping up garlic and offending everyone I came into contact with.  Don’t eat at Nonna’s if you have an important meeting or interview or something like that later in the day.

Overall, I had a decent Italian meal.  If I’m hungry for Italian and am downtown, I’d be sure to visit again (being mindful of the garlic effect).  Nonna’s did not however dethrone D’ Arpino’s as my favorite Italian place in town.

306 South Ave – (417) 831-1222

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