by Steven Doyle
Lunch is a precarious thing. A truly wonderful luncheon can be a harried distraction and certainly something that needs to be mapped out with great precision. The mid-day meal takes you away from your work and often can leave you drained if done properly, so something more than a small plate of pasta or a burger might be all you care to invest in this endeavor. But then there is that moment, that splendid day when the calendar is free from witches and warlocks that allows you the freedom to choose; and the freedom to enjoy a few glasses of Prosseco with your meal. That is when you make reservations to Nonna.
Nonna is only open one day a week for lunch and that is Friday. The opening portal to the weekend begins with this seismic meal where each course can be lovingly paired by their Sommelier, Sergio.
At Nonna, plates fly out of the very open kitchen as the chefs dabble in the wood-burning oven. Each table in the small restaurant is filled with lingering ladies who lunch, most offering their friends gifts of the season that soon brings joyous smiles and squeals of delight. I was offered no such gift this past Friday, but I did get a fantastic lunch.
Sometimes it is best to leave the ordering in the hands of the professional, and we asked Sergio to take care of the ordering. This seemed like something he does quite often as he did not flinch and jumped into action. What he brought out was splendid, and surprising.
The service began as a shared salad arrived; a wood roasted squid salad with Lamon beans and an olive oil salsa verde. The squid were relenting with slightly crisped edges that melt with smokiness. The dressing lent the salad a perfect balance of flavors.
Next we were presented the obligatory white clam pizza that chef Julian Barsotti is so famous for. The Neapolitan-style pizza has all the tell-tale signs of this fashionable pie, with a soft underbelly and the chewy blistered crust. The flavors are so light, so delicate, each slice melts when pursed to your lips. Order one when you visit Nonna.
Each course was a mystery, and deep down we were both praying for the lobster roll and we should have requested one. However, the enjoyment of the mystery dishes continued to be exciting.
The next dish was a Petrale sole with spumante, spinach and chanterelles. This was without a doubt the best piece of fish I put in my mouth all year, and I have had some terrific fish in 2012. How a piece of fish could be turned out so delicately balanced with flavor and texture is a mystery that often falls short on many chefs. Perhaps they all need a wood oven. This dish was actually split onto two plates, which was a fantastic score from our somm-waiter Sergio. More room for our next course.
Soon another dish arrived; a house-made Cotechino sausage with peperonata and lentils. The sausage was plump, juicy and free of the heavy-handed saltiness often associated Cotechino. Barsotti is making many sausages and charcuterie now that he is running Carbones nearby on Oak Lawn. The lentils made this a perfect Fall dish and a near perfect ending to our meal. That is until the tangerine Panna Cotta arrived, giving closure to our afternoon and we were sent out into the blazing sunlight to duck away in our cars and back to join the rest of society and our Friday afternoon.
If you can, try the lunch at Nonna. You will need reservations, and your menu will vary.
Nonna | 4115 Lomo Alto, Dallas | 214.521.1800