It didn’t hurt that the first night we walked in there was a Monday, the night when they just happen to have half off on all their bottles of wine. And an eclectic wine list is theirs, all Italian, but including some surprises like the bottle of Gewurtztraminer that we enjoyed on that first night (“Hey, wait a minute” – I can hear you saying – “that’s a German varietal.” Well, this was an Italian Gewurtztraminer. I kid you not.).
With it being our first night there, and both of us being really hungry, we went all out. I got an octopus salad for my appetizer that was quite wonderful (I’ve been eating a lot of octopus lately, and this one was very nicely cooked – not chewy, but still with tooth to it).
Now of course the first words out of my mouth to the server were about my allergy. I will tell you that they have accommodated my dairy allergy very nicely every time we have been there. They bring me bread toasted with olive oil, and advise me on menu items that can be more successfully adapted. On this first occasion, I asked about a squid-ink pasta with clams, and was told that it would be no problem to make it with oil instead of butter.
I don’t know what it is about squid-ink pasta, but whenever I see it on a menu, I will invariably order it when I can. This one, in rough farfalle shapes, was excellent. I chopped up the poached egg, and the yolk mixing with the dish’s clam broth made an extraordinary coating for the pasta. To get a little more vegetables into the meal, I ordered a side of sauteed spinach, which they prepared for me with oil.
Made with garlic, hazelnuts and raisins, I loved it (I will be putting nuts and raisins into my spinach with garlic at home from now on!).
The second time we visited, a week or two later, we were told that the restaurant had switched over to its spring menu, and therefore there were some new menu items. The farfalle nero was gone (no!), but luckily there were some new pastas that sounded well worth trying. The one I went for that night was the pappardelle with wild boar ragu, porcini mushrooms and dried cranberries.
It sounds like a weird idea to put dried cranberries in a tomato-y sauce, but honestly, it works incredibly well. With my love of Moroccan tagines, I am used to the idea of balancing out rich savory meaty sauces with the sweetness of dried fruits. So this dish was a big winner for me. In fact, it is my favorite Casa Nonna dish to date.
Most recently, when we were back at Casa Nonna, I tried the new squid-ink pasta dish – Tagliatelle Nero with bay scallops.
This was good, once again with a nice seafood-y broth/sauce to accompany the pasta and nice bite-sized scallops. It wasn’t quite as good as the previous black pasta, though – I think I was missing the poached egg, but I guess that is a winter-y touch in their minds. Once again, I paired it with some sauteed spinach, for a very satisfying dinner.
Casa Nonna is part of a group of restaurants called E-Squared Hospitality that has a loyalty rewards program. We signed up the first time we were there, and it took a while for me to get my loyalty card; but now that I have it, we get a dollar off every item on the menu when we eat there, and occasionally I gather we will get other sweet deals (percentages off the bill, that kind of thing). We look forward to being back again at Casa Nonna very soon! Maybe next time we will splurge for another half-priced bottle of Italian wine on a Monday…