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Oct 14, 2008 08:31 PM

[DFW] Nonna: I surrender

I've been skewered about my comments on Nonna based on my one time visit. I vowed to go back and try it again for I dearly love Italian food.

I went back tonight to celebrate a windfall profit of some mad money. Simply put, y'all get all of that you want but if someone asks for a good Italian resto rec in Dallas, do not send them to Nonna. They have good food but it ain't no Italian-American.

This is what I consumed:

2 glasses of Masi Campoflorin Rosso del Veronese Ripasso '05 - $12 a glass
Salumi of Finochietta, Toscana, ciccioli, breasola, speck, coppa, and soppressata - $15
Tajarin with proscciutto di San Danielle, sage, and parmigianano - $17

The wine was excellent. There is no substitute. Next time I'll just drink my dinner.

The salumi? Well in my 61 years in America, I've consumed more salami, soppressata, capicolla (hot and sweet), mortadella, and prosciutto than a show dog could jump over. My PR for cholesterol is 324, no joke. That aside, I could easily put together an Italian cold cuts plate from Central Market every bit as good as what I ate at Nonna. It was mainstream at best and I deliberately ordered it because it was the most expensive starter on the menu. My thinking was get off to a good start. Conversely, the last time I was there, I had a green salad that would barely pass muster at Fireside Pies.

The pasta: Tajarin with proscciutto di San Danielle, sage, and parmigianano. It was 2.75 oz. of pasta at best and I'll kiss a fat man's ass if there was ANY sage in it at all. Oh and for the proscciutto? I counted 6 small julienned pieces. But hey, how much pasta should you expect to get these days for $17?

I quit smoking 7 weeks ago. If the wind blows hard and there's a hint of spice in the air, my tongue goes hard. My taste buds are totally on point. This meal was MEDIOCRE.

Never mind that the Parkie couple next to me got their entree 15 minutes before me even though I had FINISHED my starter even BEFORE they had ordered any food at all. After I pointed this out to my wait person, he aplogized and explained to me in a ham-fisted way that they were "regulars". He offered coffee and dessert gratis but I politely declined. I had suffered enough. I did over tip him though.

Street cred you say? I'm a 2nd generation Italian, my Mother's maiden name is Reganato, I've lived in both England and France, and I grew up in the mostly densely populated Italian community in America, but hey, what do I know?

"But Scagnetti [wringing hands in Chowhound anguish] where do YOU go if you want Italian food?" Romano's Macaroni Grill, Lovers Lane Pizza, Penne Pomodoro and Alessio's when it was still in business. I surrendered when the Cowboys last won the Super Bowl.

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  1. I've got to know: What do you order at Romano's Macaroni Grill?

    3 Replies
    1. re: supeRex

      Macaroni Grill had good intentions when it started. Affordable, no frills Italian-American food. Over the years, it moved away from that philosophy. Now, because they've been trying to sell this chain for a long time, the menu has been agressively upscaled to improve sales figures. It's a mere shadow of its former self.

      What do I eat there? Cheap red wine, bruschetta, green salad, and a plate of pasta with a basil tomato sauce. It's a meal I've eaten a hundred times in a hundred places.

      1. re: Scagnetti

        Based on the meal you have had a hundred times in a hundred places I see why Nonna is not your cup of tea. Totally different and greatly enjoyed by most visitors, just not all. I am firmly in the pro-Nonna camp myself.

        1. re: bhoward

          I totally agree. If pasta with red sauce is what you are after, this isn't going to fulfill that desire. I too am in the pro-Nonna camp and if Dallas doesn't care for that sort of restaurant, we would gladly welcome them moving to Houston.

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. I hear that the Olive Garden has really good EYE-talian!!! Wow, just Wow.

        12 Replies
        1. re: J.R.

          Would you share with us the details of your last 3 visits at Nonna otherwise your Olive Garden remark comes across as being totally intellectually disingenuous.

          1. re: Scagnetti

            I'd be happy to. First of all, I don't know where you got that Nonna was Italian-American as it certainly is not. Just because you have an Italian-American heritage, does not necessarily place you in a position of authority on Italian Cusine. Instead of reciting my last 3 visits in detail due to time constraints, I'll give you the highlights of the last 20 meals there. And since you felt the need give you background for some percieved cred., I 'll do the same. I travel and eat all over the world for business and I have a culinary degree also (not my profession) and your Parkie Couple comment was condesending.

            First off, thier all Italian wine list is extremely well chosen and very reasonable relative to most of the other high end resto's in the city. Addionlly, I think their portion sizes are perfect. I would much rather have a moderate amount of really quality prepared food, that a plate of mediocre slop that feeds 3 as you get at many places. The real wood oven baked bread lightly coated with quality EVOO and sea salt is a great starter along with the complimentary olives .The grilled Romaine salad with Pancetta is as good as any salad I've had, certainly in Dallas.
            Other othstanding starters are the Asparagus rosted in the oven with a fried egg on top. Additionally we quite enjoy their pizzas, particularly the white pizza with clams.

            As for Pastas, the lobster agnoloti is a light lobster broth is simply outstanding as I've had it 5 times or so. I once enjoyed a whole wheat pasta dressed with chantrelles that was perfect. The lasagna bolognese was also very tasty (tasted my wifes). I also tasted the taglitelle bolgnese which I thought was very pedestian to be honest. I've also had the Tajin which you mentioned and I thought it was outstanding and it definately had sage. Their goat cheese ravioli is near perfection IMO.

            We usually don't do mains, but the ones I can vouch for are the Porchetta which I have never, ever seen on a menu in Dallas. The veal meatballs are also very good.

            As far as desserts are concerned, I particularly like the Meyer Lemon cake and the semi-freddo which you also can't get anywhere prepared at that level. As far as service is concerned the last 2 times, the service was not as good as it has been, I will admit.

            In conclusion, food and restaurants are definately a matter of opinion and my opnion is that Nonna is far and away the best Italian resto in town, and it is great that we finally have something on that level. They use seasonaly, fresh ingredients and change the menu's accordingly. And for the record, I have no ties to Nonna and am not a "regular", but I've been there 20 or so times, so I think I have a handle on it. It's not alway perfect, but its damn fine.

            1. re: J.R.

              AMEN J.R.! I've had 3 outstanding meals at Nonna and find myself constantly craving more. White pizza, lobster agnoloti, fantastic wines - it's absolutely my favorite dinner spot right now.

              1. re: babybeans76

                Why is it babybeans76 that you've only had 1 other Chowhound post and that was in July 2007 and yet 10 minutes after J.R. posts his reply, you login in and rave about Nonna?

                1. re: Scagnetti

                  Very simply.... nothing else worth raving about. Nothing else has grabbed my attention the way Nonna has. It is definitely a refreshing change to the typical DFW offerings as far as Italian goes.

              2. re: J.R.

                I'll be the first to admit that I was in error in comparing Nonna with typical Italian-American restaurants. It is not that.

                I now must admit, based on your post, that Nonna is unmatched in Dallas in terms of Italian cuisine. You'll get no truck with me on that account.

                Thank you, and I know I speak for many here, for your detailed and informative post and for setting the record straight.

                1. re: Scagnetti

                  Scagnetti--Why did you back down? You made great points. Just because "everyone" loves Nonna doesn't mean "everyone" has an informed opinion. IJS.

                  1. re: Piegirl

                    >>Why did you back down?<<
                    I got scoreboarded by a food bully.

                    1. re: Scagnetti

                      I was researching for an excellent Italian dining experience for my upcoming visit to Dallas, so I read this thread. Two questions: what is a "parkie couple"? (Someone from Highland Park? If so, are they bad just because they're presumed rich?) and, what does "scoreboarded" mean and who is the food bully?

                      1. re: ponocat

                        Ignore that twaddle, go to Nonna, you'll adore it.

                        1. re: Scagnetti

                          My husband makes very fine, silky pasta from scratch and I grow as many herbs as I can to make the finest possible sauces I can manage. I was seeking a restaurant that can go beyond our best efforts to match as closely as possible what we have so enjoyed in Italy. It will be a special night that we spend our money on in Big D and we don't want to blow it. That is why I questioned a bit. Maybe I didn't address you or my questions correctly. What I want to know is whether this place is really worth spending our special time out or not.

                  2. re: Scagnetti

                    If you want good italian, Rome style, try Benne Benne off the Tollway, good food without the fluff.

            2. Try Amore in Snider Plaza. Excellent Italian American food at reasonable prices. I'm particularly fond of the cannelloni.

              We also love Adelmo's, which offers a wider range of food and has a number of less Americanized dishes. One of the best things I ever ordered there was during restaurant week a few years ago: rabbit with a side of gnocchi in a gorgonzola sauce. Amazing.

              And I have to admit we go to Romano's every now and then. It used to be sort of like Olive Garden, but with pretty good basic Italian food. Now, it's just sort of like Olive Garden.

              A truly good Chowhound is able to find something nice to eat at almost any restaurant. It's no trick to get an excellent meal at a four-star restaurant. It's a talent to be able to do that at a chain!

              1 Reply
              1. re: dalaimama

                Dalaimama - I agree with your take. Amore and Adlemos are great.

                I am a little bit in the ambivalent category to Nonna. I think i got caught up in the hype of Nonna. Kind of like with movies when you expect nothing, you can be pleasantly surprised, and when you expect the moon, you are often disappointed. I have expected too much from my visits to Nonna. It is fine, but I am not in the "love" crowd, I am in the it is good every once in a while crowd.

              2. I happend to agree with most of the posters and LOVE Nonna. The lobster agnoloti and well as shrimp agnoloti is one of the best meals of my life with perfect portions, flavors, and presentation. I think of this as a cozy restaurant that just happens to do everything right. I was very surprised that people think of it as pretenctious. I am a 20 something and I have had great service and a friendly atmosphere every one of the 10 or so times I have been there. BTW, I am not a Parkie