Restaurant Review: Nonno Alby’s is a “go to” for Wood Oven Pizza
[wdi_feed id=”1″]“SOMEONE WHO CAN write about distinguishing pizza as contextually or paradigmatically perfect without sounding pompous has a gift.” HSIAO-CHING CHOU, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER FOOD WRITER, 2014
I have no idea what that means but I’m going to write about pizza anyway – sort of.
To begin with, I have searched every pizza recipe I could find on the net, in Italian cookbooks and in the clippings and hand-written notes bequeathed to my wife by her Sicilian mother, buonanima Anna Rosello Cardamone. Lord how I miss her! Nowhere did I find any pizza ingredient that involves a cardboard box. I determine this to be divine direction that He/She (whatever the case may be) intended pizza to be consumed directly from and in very close proximity to the oven from which it was baked.
So, respectfully, “Domino’s” and “DiGiorno’s” take a hike.
I’ve made a lot of turns on this earth and (over)eaten more than my fair share of pizza. Real Italian pizza, as first made in Napoli and carried through to New York and Brooklyn, is thin crusted and baked in wood-fired brick ovens. Immediately that rules out that thing called, “Chicago style deep dish” ….. whatever. All you need to know is there are no vowels in the Chicago telephone book. Nuff said?
Nonno Alby’s is our go-to place when we want to eat “all’italiana” (food in the Italian style.) Though their signage highlights their “Wood Oven Pizza” – rightfully so – it isn’t a “pizza joint”. It has a much wider menu, like a small trattoria but more relaxed and less expensive than a ristorante. We have happily grazed our way through the “befores” like
CAPRESA – sliced beef-stake tomatoes and soft (homemade) Buffalo mozzarella on warm, olive oil drizzled focaccia.
GRILLED EGGPLANT – blanketed with creamy ricotta, herbs, provolone and plum tomato sauce
OVEN ROASTED WINGS – with a choice of thirteen different sauces including my go-to, “Nonno Sauce” ; it’s as close to five alarms as I ever want to get.
The décor is subdued and comfortable. The ceiling is low and the dining areas are separated by a low dividing wall creating a more intimate atmosphere. The cacophony you come to expect at a pizza emporium, and too often find at some cavernous, pricey eateries, is blessedly absent here.
The servers are smartly dressed and pleasant. At our most recent visit, our server, Lilly, was well versed in the menu and the libations, a selection of wine and beer on tap, plus the typical soft drinks. The owner, Massimo Grande, stopped to chat. He has called me “Frankie” (as in Valli) ever since I ordered the Quattro Stagione (Four Seasons) pizza during our first visit. It’s imported San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh mushrooms, black Sicilian olives, artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers, prosciutto di Parma, and fresh basil top a perfectly thin, crisply roasted blanket of dough.
I can hear the angels singing!
During our most recent visit, my daughter and I started with a cold draught Summer Shandy and shared an order of wings with Nonno Sauce, while my wife had her usual diet Coke and, to my surprise, also sampled the wings. Her verdict, good but a bit too spicy. My wife ordered the Margherita pizza, with imported San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil – she tends to be a purist – while my daughter and I each ordered the Quattro Stagione. (The three of us went home sated and with plenty of pizza for another meal.)
Our next visit will be for lunch. We’ll share the Jumbo Heart Salad (heart of romaine, with curry vinaigrette dressing and topped with a crab cake) and the Paisano panini (EVOO, soppressata, capicola, prosciutto and roasted peppers). And maybe a glass of vino, too.
Nonno Alby’s Wood Oven Pizza
701 W. Penn Ave
Charley is a 25 year member of SAG/AFTRA with principal roles in TV series including The Wire, The Sopranos, Law and Order, Law and Order SVU, Homicide Life on the Street and Cold Case, and films including Liberty Heights and Two Bits. His professional theater credits include Guys and Dolls (Nicely Johnson), Fiddler on the Roof (Lazar Wolf), The Wizard of Oz (Cowardly Lion), Gangstertown (Mayor Big Bill Thompson) and Niagara Falls (Mr. Poletti). Charley has also appeared in Chicago (Billy Flynn), Annie (Daddy Warbucks), Damn Yankees (Van Buren) and Annie Get Your Gun (Charlie Davenport).