We had been to Casa Nonna (www.casanonna.com) during Restaurant Week with Samuel and at that time we found out about their SUNDAY DINNERS at $28/per person. This is a deal that beats Restaurant Week by millions of miles, so we headed back in last night for the SICILY dinners which are being featured every Sunday in September (each month is a different region--we can't wait to find out what's next!).
We settled into our comfy booth as I admired the decor on the shelves that separates the dining sections: Lurasia bottled water, pasta in glass jars and biscotti tins; all set up so beautifully. Executive Chef Amy Brandwein, fresh from her win at the AIWF CRABCAKE Competition was off on Sunday, so Chef Nairobi was in charge and she handled the whole place with sheer perfection; everyone seemed to be having a good time.
We were greeted with a smile as Manager Stephanie recognized us from several weeks ago. Our server, Okelo, had a huge smile on and seemed just the epitome of kindness.
Samuel was again his slightly difficult self and wanted pizza, but we insisted on pasta (we were sure he would order the wonderful Chitarra from our last visit that he adored so much). He ended up choosing the SPAGHETTI alla POMODORO, but we convinced him to try some PANCETTA on top which he adored.
We chose the Sicilian $28 tasting which is 4 courses served family style and enough to fill up anyone's empty stomach. We were treated to some extra starters as well, which you can surely consider if ordering a la carte:
POLPO is a perfectly grilled OCTOPUS served as a salad with Sun dried tomatoes, potato, lemon and celery and is simply yet seasoned ideally.
SPIEDINI allo SPECK is for those who wish to indulge in the grilled (melted) fontina cheese wrapped in slices of speck (Italian ham) that is crunchy from the grilling. Sage leaves come with these and you must eat them with the skewered delights for even more flavor.
We ordered a bottle of the special Sicilian white for the evening L'ISOLA DEI PROFUMI BIANCO 2009 at $33 and what a deal; so good, we had a 2nd bottle.
The Sicilian menu included the following:
CAPONATA al MELANZANE which is described as a sweet & sour eggplant (even better with the sweet caramelized onions) on crostini. We chose, as we did last time, to save much of this to take home as we knew how much would follow...we are just about ready to head down now and enjoy some with a wonderful wine at home!
CAZILLI FRITTI are Fried garlic and POTATO CROQUETTES which are again an indulgence and delightful. We tried to get Sam to try one (there were 3), but he would have none of these delight Sicilian "tater tots."
POLPETTINE di TONNO are Fried Tuna and Pecorino in Tomato Sauce....I forgot to ask Chef Nairobi, but I could have sworn these were meat sausages and not tuna, even though the seasoning and taste was fabulous.
The three Antipasti were followed by TWO (yes two) PRIMI Pastas....
PENNE ALLA NORMA (of course this has great operatic importance to me) which was a Penne Rigate with a tasty Tomato Basil Sauce topped with ingeniously Fried Slices of Eggplant and thin shavings of Ricotta Salata. At first I thought the eggplant was a slice of meat, like prosciutto, it was like a fake chemical treat you see these days at some of the "chemical" spots around, but it was real homey Italian all the way.
Samuel tasted this and begged for 2nds and 3rds as he adored the eggplant and the ricotta as well.
PAPPARDELLE al RAGU BIANCO was novel for me in that the huge ribbons of Fresh Egg Yolk pasta were served in a beef ragu made with WHITE wine. It was a bit peppery and a total treat.
The Secondi (mains) were no less exciting:
FILETTO di NASELLO all'AGLIO e PEPERONCINO was a perfectly sauteed HAKE Filet with Garlic, Lemon and Hot Peppers. The chef here at Casa Nonna are not afraid of spice and we love that. When the fabulous cheese-stuffed pizza-like bread came, Samuel declared it a bit too spicy, but we still gobbled it all up!
Perhaps the spice is also part of the Sicilian heritage, but we did like it.
FARSU MAGRU SICILIANA is a work of art as the braised BEEF is made into a roulade and stuffed with Hard Boiled Egg, Ground Veal and Caciocavallo (cheese).
There are (just in case the above is not enough) two sides with each dinner:
BROCCOLIL di RAPE and here the BROCCOLI RAAB is served with Garlic, Anchovy, Lemon and some Hot Peppers as well
FINOCCHIO a SFINCONE is a casserole of BRAISED FENNEL in Tomato Sauce topped with Breadcrumbs and Caciocavallo all melted to look like a mini-lasagna (but with no pasta). It was a bit of an indulgence and I liked this more than Will did.
Dessert was a simple CANNOLI SICILIANI with the small homemade thin pastry shell filled with orange-scented RICOTTA over Chocolate Sauce with Pistachios. Sam liked the sauce, but he missed the pastry which was the best part of the dish. A glass of orange -cello (as opposed to LIMON) was nice and I thought would pair with the orange in the dessert, but it doesn't have the same essence as the limoncello. Will opted for grapefruit-cello which indeed did have the punch of the limon!
We headed home fuller than ever and knowing (at Samuel's bequest) that we return for a Sunday tasting soon!