I immediately started to peruse the menu (okay, I’ll admit that I actually had checked the menu a few times in advance of the meal and had plotted out my ordering strategy earlier in the day). However, I still wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I was immediately impressed with the wine list as they had my two favorites: Prosecco and Falanghina which is not always easy to find. I went ahead and ordered a glass of the Falanghina which was divine while my friend Meg went for one of their signature cocktails, the white peach bellini. The food menu has a great array of options from small plates such as fried mozzerella or artichokes to sliced meats and antipasti platters, salads which serve 2-3 people, pasta dishes that come in two sizes (1/4 lb. or 1/2 lb.), and main courses which are also meant for sharing. Our plan was to start with a salad and then move into the serious territory with the pastas.
Soon after we sat down the waiter brought out the bread which was piping hot with a garlic and pesto spread. This was a great placeholder to snack on until we got our first course. We opted for the Caprese Salad which was quite refreshing with some great additions to the traditional favorite. The salad included buffalo mozzerella, tomatoes, beets, watermelon, and a pesto vinaigrette. With a small addition of some balsamic for some extra flavor, it was a nice start to the meal. We then decided to order two of the pastas in the smaller size and we chose to keep them in the center of the table so we could each enjoy both. We decided on the Penne Arrabiatta and the Stracci Di Manzo which is described as handmage “rags” pasta tossed with braised short rib and tomato sauce. The pastas were fantastic. The penne was al dente with quite a nice kick to it, and the Stracci Di Manzo was lighter than expected with the short ribs perfectly tender and flavorful.
In my opinion, a key sign of any good Italian restaurant is their ability to deliver wonderful basics, and I’d say this Penne Arrabiatta proved itself to me. I am often one to order Spaghetti Pomodoro in Italy and while many would think that is a boring option, it allows a chef to deliver the most magnificent homemade sauces that can be appreciated as a result of their simple surroundings. I look forward to trying to the Spaghetti Pomodoro the next time I come back. In addition to the pastas we ordered a side of the meatballs which are made with veal, pork, and beef served in a nice dish of homemade marinara sauce with mozzerella cheese on top. The meatballs were heavy, but they were probably one of my favorite things that we ate at Casa Nonna- they were rustic, filling, and molto bene.
And of course, what is a real Italian feast without some sweets at the end to top off a great meal? I stuck to my imagined Italian heritage and ordered the Tiramisu while my friend ordered the Bombolini which were donuts with meringues and orange peel. Tiramisu is different at every Italian restaurant, but this one was cake-like with marscapone layers and chocolate sauce on the side for extra indulgence. The donuts were delicious and almost tasted like funnel cake, but the citrus flavors added a great zing to the dessert and made it hard to resist.
I really appreciate Casa Nonna’s interest in the family style, but their flexibility in catering to those who would like individual portions as well. The two sized options for pasta dishes is brilliant, and allows for many different ordering scenarios. Further, the larger entrees such as the steak, chicken dishes, and the shrimp scampi are also meant to be shared without being gluttonously large. While I did not have a chance to indulge in the pizza this time, it looks deliciously thin and crispy and straight out of the blistering oven which I look forward to trying on my next visit.
With all of the new Italian restaurants joining the Washington space on a weekly basis, one might think that Casa Nonna was just another establishment looking to jump on the bandwagon. But in fact, Casa Nonna is filling a void in the Dupont area that has otherwise forced residents to turn to Bertucci’s and Bucca di Beppo for too long. Also, Casa Nonna can reap the benefits of a great location as the large bar area will appeal to the happy hour crowd after work, the hotels nearby will be sure to send their tourists to the new Italian joint, and the local Dupont neighbors and residents will be glad to have a delicious and more unique option in walking distance of their homes. I look forward to coming back soon and I see strong potential for Casa Nonna to become a D.C. staple in the future.
1250 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20036