Saturday, January 24, 2009

Screw you, Kefi: A neighborhood relief at Nonna

On Saturday night, I met BL on the UWS for a catch-up dinner. I had made a reservation at Kefi, since I love Greek food and had been lured in by the Kefi buzz. I fought the crowds at the door, pushed past the bar area of the obnoxiously loud room, and finally reached the front of the line (nay, mob) at the hostess stand to submit my name and redeem the reservation... when the hostess informed me my reservation was actually for Sunday evening. Sweet. I was a combination of pissed and relieved-- pissed that we had traveled all the way up to the UWS for nothing, but relieved because after five minutes in the frenzied Kefi dining room, I had already had enough.

So, peace out Kefi, have a nice life! We pushed our way past the crowds and headed across the street to Nonna, an unassuming little Italian place that looked rustic and appealing. We were seated immediately. Score!

The dining room was full of families eating plates of pasta and drinking wine out of small cylindrical glasses. We were handed the menus and then faced the difficult task of deciding what we wanted. Our waiter cheerfully came back a couple of times before we were ready, at one point reciting the specials in such an indifferent and disconnected way that it was only when I heard him reciting them to a nearby table, as I was halfway through my salad, that I realized I would actually have wanted to order one. Oh well.

After we placed our order, a plate of focaccia arrived on the table. This was good stuff-- nice and oily but not greasy, flavorful and with the barest hint of rosemary. A nice sprinkle of coarse salt on the crust would have made this focaccia transcendent, but as it was it was damn good. I ate two and a half pieces. Oops?

This entire plate was gone rather quickly.

Fortunately, there was still room for our entrees. BL had ordered pappardelle with mushrooms in a shallot butter sauce. The portion was just right, and my small taste revealed a quite tasty mushroom/sauce mixture. BL definitely enjoyed the pasta.

Looks fresh and mushroomy

I had selected the arugula salad. It was a plate of large, intensely peppery arugula, with a few halved cherry tomatoes and a few shreds of ricotta salata on top. The aggressive twist of fresh ground pepper on top made the whole thing overwhelmingly peppery, and the dressing (on the side) that seemed to be entirely oil did little to cut the pepperiness. It was an okay salad; not terrible, not great, but not something I'd go out of my way to eat.

You can even SEE the pepper

After our entrees were cleared, we debated dessert and eventually headed to Pinkberry. Our bill was quite reasonable, and the whole experience was definitely pleasant-- nice because it was unassuming, which was itself especially nice because of all the attitude we absorbed at Kefi. I wouldn't necessarily recommend going out of your way to visit Nonna, but if you're searching for a low-key dinner in the area, you can't go wrong. It's a solid three-Offset Spatula neighborhood place.

520 Columbus Ave, at 85th Street

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