401 S. Alamo St., (210) 224-8800, nonnasa.com
Your own first look at Nonna in the Fairmount will be of a gleaming wall of wine. This is not just to impress you — though it does; servers will kneel to unlock the tall, glass doors frequently during the course of the evening. But even more dazzling may be the kid-in-the-candy-store smile of Chef Luca Della Casa from his white-tiled post in the open kitchen. He’s got a lot to smile about.
The menu in this totally, and handsomely, revamped space seems at first glance to be a little modest, given all the time and effort that went into the place’s making. It stops, where most Italians are just getting started, with pizzas and pastas. But it pays to know that Silo Prime, an equally handsome enclave behind Nonna, will open soon as a steakhouse, satisfying carnivorous urges. With that in mind, you might even consider restaurant hopping.
Start with the altogether satisfying arancini, the golden orbs of fried, saffron-scented risotto with mozzarella. Beautifully seasoned chopped, tender octopus with potatoes and a basil aioli will likely not disappoint as a follow-up. In order of preference, we moved on to the subtle and aromatic lobster ravioli and cherry tomatoes, the robust pappardelle with cinghiale (wild boar) and mozzarella, and the very good but just not as exciting Gnocchi di Nonna: rabbit, olives and fontina. An earthy Montepulciano d’Abruzzo worked especially well with the wild boar. And stay for desserts by pastry chef Jenn Riesman, such as the interactive chocolate and porcini ice cream sandwich with dulce de leche interiors or the olive oil cake topped with curried blueberry compote and candied pine nuts. Salads and pizza we left for another time — and there will be one. Or two …