Photo by Jason Varney.
On the first day, there were white tablecloths. People dressed for restaurants the way they did for Pan Am Stratocruisers, and entrées arrived beneath silver domes. On the second day, the kitchen came into the dining room, and the menus were written in chalk. People brought their own wine to dinner, and entrées didn’t arrive at all. Tapas came instead. On the third day, the servers changed into blue jeans. They stripped the lampshades off the lightbulbs, served drinks in mason jars, and pretended supper was happening in a barn. But it wasn’t until Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran opened Little Nonna’s that anyone thought to festoon an outdoor dining area with a laundry line.
I guess nothing says “Come to Granny” like old-timey aprons (illuminated by bare Edison bulbs strung from the rafters, natch) drooping above a patio lined with weather-beaten wood.
Just when you think the march of comfort dining has run out of striding room, it steps into Even More Casual Alley. It’s only a matter of time before some restaurateur plunks a bucket of potatoes in the middle of the dining room with an old man in a V-neck undershirt to peel them. Until then, Turney and Safran’s homage to the ghosts of Philly’s red-gravy past stands at the forefront of the flight from the cutting edge.
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A table spread at Marie Turney and Valerie Safran’s enchanting Little Nonna’s, which gets our prize for Best New Gayborhood Restaurant. Photo courtesy of Jason Varney.
GAYBORHOOD RESTAURANT: Amis
You don’t have to spend the mortgage at Marc Vetri’s eponymous townhouse to get that delicious Vetri Italian cooking. This exposed-brick, slightly industrial-feeling space has food that will simply knock your socks off, including our fave, the addictive tonnarelli. Sit at the counter, sip some very good wine, and watch the masters do their thing. 412 S. 13th St., 215-732-2647, amisphilly.com.
NEW GAYBORHOOD RESTAURANT: Little Nonna’s
Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran’s latest is a step back in time to the cozy kitchen of some little Italian granny—one who wants to put some meat on those bones. Loosen your belt and dive head first into the homemade meatballs sopped in “Sunday gravy” and a plate of the fluffiest gnocchi this side of Trastevere. 1234 Locust St., 215-546-2100, littlenonnas.com.
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Little Nonna’s is now serving lunch Monday through Saturday. Enjoy Marcie Turney’s take on Italian-American cuisine. Check out the menu of salads, sandwiches, macaroni dishes and more.
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Leave it to us here at Foobooz to take the first cool evening as an excuse to tuck in to some comfort food. Less than 80 degrees? Time for pasta! Truthfully, it didn’t take much since Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney’s newest gem, Little Nonna’s, opened on Wednesday night and we were eager to try it. Though our first visit was by no means comprehensive, we tasted some delicious things for you to look forward to as the weather cools.
Cocktails, food and photos, all this way
Little Nonna’s, the red-gravy restaurant from Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran opens to the public tonight and we’ve got the menus. So check out what you’ll be eating, from “Big Mama’s Meatballs” to Grilled Swordfish Oreganata.
Reservations are available by calling 215-546-2100.
Little Nonna’s Dinner Menu (PDF)
Little Nonna’s Drinks and Wine Menu (PDF)
Little Nonna’s Dessert Menu (PDF)
Little Nonna’s [Official Site]
Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran have set September 4th as the opening date for their “red-sauce” inspired Little Nonna’s. This is the fourth restaurant and seventh business along 13th Street for the pair. Little Nonna’s will seat 37, forty more seats will be available in the outdoor courtyard and will focus on the strong traditions of Italian-American cooking. Look for satisfying staples of “Sunday gravy” and homemade meatballs. Chef Turney even plans to add to her menu by inviting guests to share their own signature dishes via recipe cards on each table. Turney will choose her favorites to feature on the menu.
In addition to the traditional Italian-American classics, look for an all Italian wine list and Italian cocktails including the iconic Negroni. Little Nonna’s version will be served in a mason jar with one big block of ice. We’ll have the full menu early next week.
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Little Nonna’s—Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney‘s Midtown Village ode to the classic red sauce neighborhood Italian ristorante–is scheduled to open the doors this August. But because they’re smart, they’ve been teasing us all throughout the construction and testing process with photos and stories about how things are coming together.
Now, though, they’ve gone one step further. They’ve produced a nice little video which gives a feel for the place, the food, the drinks and, most important, the vibe of their little 37-seater.
Think of it like a trailer–a preview of what’s to come. And tell me that watching it doesn’t make you crave a bottle of lambrusco, a plate of spaghetti and a warm evening to spend with them.
Little Nonna’s preview video, right this way
Little Nonna’s, the Italian restaurant by Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran is aiming to open in late July. Here’s a snap of the kitchen, subway tiles, pots, pans and some vintage market finds they’ve already picked up.