Our second Restaurant Week meal this summer was at Nonna’s Kitchen. This restaurant opened in November 2014 above the more casual Alphonse Italian Market and Osteria on U Street, and aims to serve “classic, old world Italian cuisine with a modern twist.” I’ve heard great things about the spot, so A and I made reservations there for what turned out to be a surprisingly rainy Thursday night. The door to Nonna’s Kitchen is found at the side of Alphonse, and once you head into that entrance, you feel like you are leaving bustling, overcrowded U street far behind.
At the top of the staircase, there is a small, intimate dining room (with only 24 seats), and a large open kitchen. The owners have strived to make this restaurant really channel “Nonna” (grandmother in Italian) with its lush red walls, Italian cooking books lining the kitchen, and absolutely adorable mismatched floral china.
A and I were seated right by the open kitchen, and a well-dressed waiter, complete with a heavy Italian accent, explained to us that tonight they would be offering a 3 course menu for $35, as well as a 5 course menu for $55. Although the $55 menu did seem like an excellent option (especially since the 5 course menu typically goes for $90 here), for once we did not jump at the opportunity to overindulge. A had eaten a heavy lunch, and I was preparing to start a juice cleanse the next day, so we decided to be reasonable, pass on the lamb and truffles, and pick the 3 course option:
While waiting for our first course, the waiter brought out bread, along with pesto, and carefully plated it on our dishes before brushing every single bread crumb that had fallen onto the white tablecloth. Now that is what I call attentive service! The bread was crusty, hearty bread and the pesto was traditional and good. A and I happily munched away, especially satisfied since for a brief two minutes we had panicked and wondered if this was one of those places that had done away with the bread basket. Nonna’s Kitchen has no idea how close they came to having two weeping Asian girls in the middle of their fine dining restaurant. Luckily, the “modern twist” of the restaurant did not mean that they had chosen to forgo the best way to begin a meal (which is by lining your stomach with some carbs).
Then our first courses arrived, along with the same well-dressed waiter, who put our beautiful plates onto the table with the same care you use with a newborn baby. I went with the beef tartare, served with pickled onions, and shaved tangy Parmesan cheese. It was excellent.
A went with the fluke carpaccio for her first course, which was thinly sliced, and topped with raw onions, herbs and a citrus dressing. She approved, and we both polished off our respective raw animals quickly.
For my main course, I decided to stick with the red meat path and picked the veal. The sizable chunk of baby cow was served with tomato sauce over creamy polenta and garnished with springs of parsley. The veal breast was sooo succulent, perfectly cooked and well seasoned. It was a simple, rich, and incredibly delicious. A comfort dish for a rainy night.
A also continued to stick with sea dwellers and ordered the cod, which was topped with thin slices of beets, and some creamy sauce (maybe eggplant?) that the waiter poured out of a mini teapot. I tried a bite of the fish, which was slightly buttery, and smokey. I enjoyed it, and A agreed that it was good, but a little too heavy on the sauce.
Our waiter recommended the cheese dessert, so we both decided not to argue with that. This last dish consisted of a slice of wonderfully sharp, tangy cheese, topped with a thin savory cracker, fresh figs and was drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Every factor of the dessert went together perfectly! I made sure to eat every last crumb on my plate.
Overall, this was a fantastic meal. The old-school, attentive service made us feel relaxed and at ease, the perfect portions were satisfying, and the food was just wonderful. The restaurant and the food served managed to evoke a rustic, comforting yet elegant vibe in a beautiful setting. I am sure that the fixed-price menus would be worth the price based on our little experience here, and I’m noting this spot as a great place for a special occasion with my imaginary boyfriend.