Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Bite - Casa Nonna

Yom Kippur is the one day a year when I have to refrain from partaking in one of my favorite activities: eating. Throughout those 24 hours of repentance, every cereal commercial on TV, mention of meal times, and single hint of food makes my stomach rumble and crave sustenance. In order to survive this seemingly never-ending day, one has to prep by eating a very large meal.

Casa Nonna, the new Italian concept from the people behind BLT Steak, seemed like the obvious choice. They have been touting it as a homegrown Italian family kitchen. (Casa Nonna is Italian for "grandmother’s house"). The large portions and traditional dishes allow this Dupont spot to live up to its name. 

Elliot and I arrived at the restaurant right around 6pm, only to find the dining room almost completely empty. This allowed me to have a good look at how the space has been transformed since its former life as a California Pizza Kitchen. The interior went from having a California-chic feeling to that of a rustic Italian trattoria, complete with red checkered tablecloths. 

In order to fill up our stomachs, Elliot and I started with the risotto balls and the fried mozzarella. The risotto balls (better known to us as suppli) were good, but didn’t live up to the high expectations we have after becoming regulars at 2 Amys. They were a bit too small and the fried outside didn’t have enough flavor for my taste. Luckily, the fried mozzarella fared better. The fried rounds were served with what appeared to be an anchovy butter complementing the slightly sweet cheese. Another treat was warm, gratis bread that comes with a bit of garlicy pesto smothered on each slice. The couple sitting next to us asked for bread without the pesto, and I truly felt bad for them knowing that they would 
miss a highlight of the restaurant. 

The true star of the evening, however, was the lasagna. At first glance, the $30 price tag made me balk, but then I realized that this dish would contain a 1/4 pound of pasta for each of us, ensuring us that we had more than enough food to last us through the 24-hour fast. Most lasagna recipes call for a combination of ricotta, cottage cheese, mozzarella or another mild form of cheese. This tends to make any lasagna dish feel very heavy inside of your stomach. Casa Nonna chooses to use a bechamel in between the layers of pasta, ensuring that you feel full but not too full after devouring every last morsel. Another benefit is that you can better taste the marinara sauce left in the dish.

Casa Nonna still needs a few weeks to allow the staff to get into a routine and have the kitchen learn to pace themselves. There were times when we felt as if our waiter was hovering just waiting for us to take a sip of our water so he could refill it. Literally, he was standing five feet away. But I feel like the rhythm will come in time, allowing Casa Nonna to become a bright spot in the BLT Empire and the Dupont dining scene. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing! I was concerned about the prices and the portions, but this will be more than enough;-)