Sherman's Food Adventures: Nonna's Cucina

Nonna's Cucina

My first experience with Nonna's Cucina was when I visited their food truck at the Holidays on the Block back in December.  I tried their Numero Uno Panini and came away impressed.  Fast forward to the present and they have opened their B&M store on Hastings at Templeton.  They have expanded their menu to include pastas.  I was invited along with Maggi and Joyce to have a taste of the menu.

Coincidentally, they are currently participating in the Panini Challenge and presented us with their creation - Panino del Nonna.  It consisted of spezzatino, pancetta-onion marmelatta, burrata, pepperonata, and arugula on fresh ciabatta.  The stewed beef was the star of the sandwich where it was tender and full of rich flavours.  Since there was half a burrata in this sandwich, the creaminess really came through.  Loved the marmelatta with its sweet saltiness.  Additionally, the bread was crunchy, yet not dense.  Perfect to keep all the wet ingredients inside without becoming soggy.

Next, we had Nonna's Speciale with fig spread, sopressata, spicy capicollo, Genoa salami, fiore di latte, pepperonata, eggplant, tomato, dijon mayo and arugula on fresh ciabatta.  There was quite a bit going on in this sandwich where the amount of meat added texture as well as saltiness, spice and a bit of nuttiness.  Fig spread provided balancing sweetness while the cheese and tomatoes complimented the saltiness of the meats.

Consisting of 3 large meatballs, Nonna's Meatball Panino could easily satisfy most appetites.  Since the meatballs were slowly braised in Nonna's tomato sauce, they were supremely tender and moist.  We thought the meatballs themselves could've used a bit more salt, but the tangy tomato sauce, provolone and parmigiano added enough flavour to make up for it.  Again, the crusty ciabatta held things together well.

Now here is we got to the pastas and oh what a treat that was.  Chef Darrel Arnault has worked at Il Giardino, Tutto and Cincin, so it shouldn't have been a surprise that the Rigatoni with housemade Italian sausage & fennel ragu was on point.  The pasta was firmly al dente while bathed in a rich fennel forward ragu which also had balanced tang and sweetness.  The sausage was tender with a moist meatiness and was flavourful.

The Chitarra with sidestripe prawns, olives and crispy pancetta in a spicy tomato sauce had a puttanesca-arribbiata vibe going on and it was delicious.  Once again, the pasta was al dente and the sauce was impactful.  There was tang and spice as well as briny-saltiness from the olives.  The ample amount of buttery and meaty sidestripe prawns added a natural sweetness and aroma.  This was one of my favourites.

So now we get to some housemade pastas starting with the Pappardelle with peas & asparagus in a truffle cream sauce.  I found the pasta sheets to be tender with a delicate chew.  That truffle cream sauce was rich and full of subtle aroma that was just right.  The extra sprinkle of parmigiano on top added salt and nuttiness.  Asparagus and peas provided brightness and greens to break up the heaviness.

Their Herb Ricotta Gnocchi is also housemade and I gotta say they were also on point.  They were large, so fluffy and tender, yet at the same time, not mushy.  Instead of a regular pesto, the gnocchi were tossed in a pistachio pesto cream with zucchini, cherry tomato and fennel.  The hits of basil and garlic were intertwined with the bits of pistachio in the rich cream sauce.  This could've used a touch more salt, but overall, it was well-balanced.

We tried one last pasta in the Nonna's Baked Lasagna with classic bolognese.  This also featured fresh made-in-house pasta sheets in between tender meat and cheese.  I found the pasta to be tender while retaining some chewiness.  The bolognese was creamy and rich with balancing mild tomato tang.  This sat on a bed of tangy tomato sauce and EVOO drizzle.  


I was so impressed with the pastas that I actually got a bunch for takeout (on my own coin).  This was also a good way to test out the product as it was supposed to be served (since Nonna's is mainly a takeout operation).  Yes, the pastas did soften up a bit, but overall, it held up well and was still tasty when I got them home.  If you have been observant, you will notice that there is an order of the Pappardelle Bolognese (that we didn't have at the restaurant).  This featured the same delicate pasta sheets as the truffle cream version.  The bolognese was rich and meaty while creamy at the same time.  It featured deep flavours from the slow cook down and was aromatic at the same time.

They also featured 2 desserts at the shop including the Cannoli from Cannoli King.  From that you would already know that the shells would be crunchy and light.  The fillings were made in-house though featured classic ricotta.  It was creamy and smooth with just enough sweetness.  These shattered beautifully when bitten into, but were held together by the ample ricotta filling.

Their other dessert item was the Cornetti filled with either lemon ricotta or Nutella.  Now if these look like croissants to you, then you aren't far off base.  The main difference is that cornettis employ eggs in the dough which makes them closer to brioche than the butter-forward dough of a croissant.  So therefore, beyond the crispy exterior, the inside was richer in texture.  I enjoyed the lemon ricotta filling the most due to the fact I'm biased towards the brightness of fruit.  In the end, I was rather impressed with the pastas where they could certainly be served in a Downtown establishment.  Prices are reasonable considering the quality of the product.  I will be back.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Restaurant quality pastas
- Fully-loaded sandwiches with quality ingredients
- Reasonable-prices

The Bad:
- Only 3 seats for dine-in, because eating the pastas immediately would be optimal


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