- Julia Feb 8, 2003 10:08 PM
Four of us went to Osteria Nonni in Atwater Friday night. I was surprised at how deep the restaurant was, from the street there looks like there's only room for four tables...There's probably twenty-five or so, but they are very close together. The staff is pretty quick to push them together to accomodate your party, but the noise level gets pretty high. (Noise is an issue for one of our party.)
We skipped appetizers and salads and ordered a pizza, angel hair with Italian sausage, a chicken breast special, and whole halibut with a side of spaghetti. We got a basket of steaming hot bread and pats of butter. The bread was very good, and I wished we had some olive oil, or garlic spread. The food was good, I particularly enjoyed the peppery tomato topping on the halibut. The four of us enjoyed the food, but I don't know if any of us had an "omigod" type of moment.
Small quibble--because the waiter had to squeeze past two other tables to get to us, our water glasses remained empty for longer than I like. I know its awkward crawling past other patrons with a pitcher of water, but hey...
Right before we left, a woman in a wheelchair came in with a large party. The restaurant is all on one level and she was able to get to a table with no trouble at all. I was impressed at how seamlessly she came in and got a table. I've been at many other places where there's a dog and pony show trying to accomodate for anything larger than a cane.
Two specials, one pizza, and one pasta dish, three glasses of wine $82.00 with tip.
Yes, Osteria Nonni is relatively inexpensive, but on the night I went about a month ago, the food was pretty unremarkable, bordering on bad. It was mid-week so the place wasn't that busy but the service was on the slow side. Salads were overdressed and my entree (a special) was spaghetti with tomato sauce, artichoke hearts and some other veg. Sounds good, no? No. The pasta was overcooked and the sauce just plain didn't taste very good. I ended up putting a lot of parmesan cheese on the dish in a vain attempt to make it taste better. What a disappointment.
Unfortunately, I have to agree. When Nonni first opened, the food was truly remarkable-their rendition of penne puttanesca was on my top 10 list and the tiramisu was an ooo-ahhh moment, the eclectic clientele adding to the dining experience. Something happened...at my "last" visit about a year ago, everything (waitstaff, food, atmosphere) was dull and tired. Sad, but true (sniff).
Neighborhood Osteria Nonni's congenial, elderly owner (who's name I don't know) but who for seventeen years could always be found at the far end of the open kitchen, apparently has retired and sold his friendly and familiar restaurant.
According to the Times, Corina Weibel and (cute as a bug) Jane Choit have reopened the restaurant, as Canele. They have remodelled delightfully, but only slightly --- you'll still recognize the place. It's no longer Italian, but a sort of quirky California French. The clientelle has changed, younger and hipper. If you're middle aged, you'll love people watching for the girls in mix and match Barbi Doll modern (lots of torn jeans, leggings and cheap jewelry) and guys in plaid PJ bottoms and hospital greens are a hoot.
Nonni's sublime male waiter (I'm blanking on his name right now) is still at work, so regulars will feel right at home and well-treated. The tables in the back, always less inviting at Nonni, now seem more comfortable, with a previous covered brick wall now exposed to add some warmth. The ubiquitous hot Italian bread that Nonni served every table is gone (you'll have to travel to the supreme Angeli on Melrose for that) but the brief menu is great! The herb-roasted chicken is great as are the tapenade potatoes that accompany it. While I shouldn't eat it, their cheese cake is a "ten". I recommend pretty much everything on the carefully planned menu. I think they violated a state law that requires all resturants to have a Caesar Salad, but Go Girls! Relatively inexpensive and a warm, inviting place with loads of street parking.
My only criticism is the four tables right in the front window (always the best place to sit at Nonni) have sadly been replaced by one immense, communal table, shades of your high school cafeteria.
Nevertheless, a great revitalized destination in Atwater, on the edge of Glendale and Silverlake. I'll see you there!