535 -541 Eccleshall Road
Tel: 0114 2686166
Open Mon – Sat 12pm – 2.30pm, 6pm – 9.45pm
Sun 12pm – 9pm
Nonna is the word for Grandmother in Italian. Nonna’s is an Italian restaurant in Sheffield. What a picture I conjured up on my way there: home cooked food, rustic flavours mixed with lashings of Nonna’s wisdom and wrapped in her matronly arms. I’m such a romantic.
The restaurant on Eccleshall Road in Sheffield - the ‘Notting Hill’ of the city - isn’t quite a rustic farmhouse on a Tuscan Hill, naturally; it has rather bland modest exterior. Surrounded by countless other restaurants including several Italian and I had visions of being arrested for kerb crawling on our third attempt to find it.
The welcome on arrival isn’t open arms and smiles, perhaps because we were an hour late having taken a wrong turning, ending in Chesterfield by mistake. There are however, pleasant, evocative Italian food smells wafting through the myriad of rooms that is the restaurant/café/ bar… and oodles of rather good-looking Italian waiters.
The décor makes more than a passing reference to its Italian family roots; the walls covered in sepia tinted photographs with the odd piece of memorabilia thrown in. Disconcertingly though, there was a pop-up banner for a Sheffield visitor attraction and web-site glaring from the corner, which for some reason irked me.
The small marble-topped tables with the simple Brentwood chairs are synonymous of a trattoria, but crisp, starched napkins, modern cutlery and glassware made an odd combination.
A good glass of ice-cold Pinot Grigio though soon calmed the frazzled nerves and the menu cheered me up no end. Smattered throughout are truffles, borlotti beans, mozzarella, homemade pasta; my favourite Italian foods. The wine list circumnavigates every wine-growing region of the country without a single foreign interloper with prices from low teens to a respectable £30 ish.
A cappuccino of Borlotti beans and white truffle was a must-have, as was a Bufala Mozzarella and Panzanella salad (£4.95). Winners both.
Borlotti beans are the sexiest beans I know. Fresh, they pop from their pink speckled pods as resplendent jewels, almost too pretty to eat. Puréed, as they are in this soup they make a creamy pink, unctuous concoction. The tiny slivers of truffle in reality added little but a sense of decadence.
The mozzarella oozed freshness. It was so soft it almost fell apart and had that waft of earthiness that only comes from a cheese as good as this. Panzanella is an underrated Italian salad of fresh tomatoes, peppers, bread, basil and oil. It needs the finest of ingredients to make it work, and this one was exemplary. I haven’t eaten one as good outside Italy.
The thought of a rib-eye steak with a beetroot cake, caramelised onions and a horseradish cream (£16.95) brought a smile to the fraught husbands face. Its arrival wiped it away. Ordered medium-rare, the meat was almost black around the edges and one cut revealed a solidly cooked steak. Back it went. Strangely, a replacement arrived in minutes, perfectly cooked. Happily, he tucked in but again disappointment soon lured its head. The beetroot cake was so overcooked the bottom resembled charcoal; the cream was so mild it was almost pointless. He did love the onions though, so be thankful for small mercies.
My fresh tagliatelle with wild mushrooms was first-rate. The mushrooms were of the season, black trumpets and a heavy dose of Chanterelles. A little grit in the mushrooms, though not desirable, is unavoidable but I think the commis-chef in the kitchen could have spent a little longer in their cleaning. Otherwise, no complaints from over here.
Pudding all come in at £5.75 and though many favourites appeared on the menu – Pannacotta, Baked Ricotta, Tiramisu and Gelati – we passed. Even the delightful freshly ground coffee, served from the über-Italian, zinc covered bar, didn’t appeal. I think it had more to do with the fact of the waiters lack of interest in us following the steak debacle. Plus resetting the rapidly emptying tables seemed more important. Preparation for the next day is fine but at the cost of the diners still in the restaurant?
The bill never arrived despite several requests and eventually we made our way to the bar to pay. They took the money ( a hefty £70.00) without a please and certainly no thank you’s.
A disappointing, not inexpensive, end to what had started out as a promising meal.
I suspect that had Nonna been around there may have been a lot more cortesia (politeness) and most definitely more amore.