Italian Classics in Downtown Chicago
I quickly Google Italian restaurants in downtown Chicago. My aunt and cousin are coming to visit me, and I want to take them somewhere nice. That’s when I stumble upon Nonnina. Nonnina sounds like the Italian word for grandma, nonna, but this is better than any meal my gram ever made me. You can’t go wrong with Italian food, and thankfully, Noninna had space for a 6 pm reservation.
At 5:50, we scramble to find parking, but soon enough, we walk into the restaurant.
The low lighting sets the tone for a romantic atmosphere. It is perfect for a date or, in my case, when family comes into town. Above the patio is a series of string lights, which will be lovely to sit under once the weather gets warmer. For now, we are lead to a table in the back.
The atmosphere is chic, but what I came here for is the food. The produce is locally sourced, and the menu changes depending on what ingredients are in season. When at an Italian restaurant, it would be silly to get anything other than pasta in my mind. I order the spinach fettuccine. I swirl the noodles on my fork and take a bite. Next, I am exclaiming, “oh my gosh.” At first, my aunt thought something must have been wrong with the food—just the opposite. It is perfect. As a vegetarian, I appreciate it when the chef knows how to make vegetables take center stage. When I took one bite of the sun-dried tomato, goosebumps appear all over my arms. It was that good.
The one downside about Noninna is that I hadn’t brushed up on my Italian beforehand. When it came to selecting a bathroom, one door had signori and the other donne. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember or even decipher which one is which. I take a chance. Signori sounded feminine to me, but I was wrong. When I catch a glimpse of the urinal, I quickly head for the other bathroom door with the words donne on it. Donne means women in Italian and signori- men. Now I know.
The second dish I tried was the winter vegetable gnocchi in cream sauce. Again, each vegetable had a unique flavor that added to the gnocchi’s tastiness. The best way to eat it is a little bit of everything in one bite. The kale, butternut squash, sauce, and gnocchi complemented one another perfectly.
I can’t fly to Italy, but I can go to Nonnina in Chicago when I am in the mood for a classic Italian dish.