WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The restaurant community on Esplanade near City Park is a bit more bohemian than others, and features a little bit of everything. Here’s the Italian restaurant in the neighborhood. Nonna Mia is primarily a pizza-and-pasta house, with a basic Italian menu just a shade above the ones you might find in a good shopping mall food court.
The standard pizza here uses a thicker crust than you may be used to, although it’s not to be confused with deep-dish. They’ll bake you a thin-crust job if you ask, but it’s still too thick for my tastes. The toppings are of very good quality, with a greater-than-average emphasis on fresh vegetables. The pasta dishes are enormous. I congratulate the corporate chef for keeping the sugar out of the sauces.
Musa Ulusan, who owns other pizza restaurants in the Middle Atlantic states, opened Nonna Mia (“my grandmother”) in 2009 in the former location of the Pacific Cafe sushi bar (and quite a few previous restaurants before that.)
The two dining rooms are half of the former double parlor and dining room of an architecturally interesting early-1900s house on Esplanade Avenue. The other half of the parlor is the bar, with the kitchen more or less wide open, right next to it. The bar functions to some extent as a neighborhood hangout. Graphics on the walls and in the menu seem too slick and commercial for either the building or the neighborhood. Tables are also outside on the porch.
Portobello mushrooms, chicken, and spinach (an appetizer).
»Bruschetta with tomato, basil, and garlic.
»Ravioli of the day.
Caprese salad (tomatoes and fresh mozzarella).
»Manicotti with four cheeses.
Cannelloni with ground beef.
Spaghetti and meatballs.
Chicken, eggplant, or veal parmesan.
»Stromboli (an inside-out pizza).
FOR BEST RESULTS
Ask for the thin crust on the pizza.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Beware of the garlic sauce that comes with many of the pizzas. They overdo it, and it makes the pizzas greasy. The menu graphics and copy should be toned down by about eighty percent.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good view
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open after 10 p.m.
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking