Friday, April 13, 2012

Lunch Break!

On Thursday, after a morning full of meetings, I escaped to lunch at Caffe Nonna (4427 Murphy Road) with a couple of coworkers/friends. The restaurant is in the revitalized Sylvan Park neighborhood, nestled in a row of shops and restaurants across the street from McCabe Pub, between The Local Taco and Park Cafe. There are parking spaces in front, but if those are full, there's also a small lot in the back off of Westlawn Dr.

I had been there several times before with Melissa, long-time friend and fellow Vanderbilt employee. The third in our party, Jeannette, is part of my team at work and was new to CN. We made a reservation because it's a tiny restaurant and we wanted to be sure to get a table without waiting since we were on our lunch hour. Surprisingly, they weren't busy, although we were told that the day before they had been slammed. So, a word to the wise -- for lunch or dinner, call for a reservation, just in case.

As you might guess from the name, Caffe Nonna is an Italian restaurant. The small space is cozy, and the food is comforting yet fresh and flavorful. While the menu is full of the types of dishes you'd expect from an American Italian place, it shows creativity and has a few surprises. The menu is thoughtful and has something to please most appetites without offering an overwhelming variety. Portion sizes are ample but not gut-busting like some chain Italian restaurants I could name. The food is obviously prepared with care.

Open for lunch and dinner during the week, and dinner on Saturday, CN has a nice selection of appetizers, salads, pasta, pizza, and entrees, as well as daily specials. For lunch, they also offer sandwiches. Pasta dishes are made to the customer's specification -- you choose the type of pasta, the sauce, and any additions such as a protein or vegetables. Melissa ordered one of her stand-by dishes at CN, rigatoni with bolognese and meatballs. The generous portion of fat pasta tubes and meaty sauce was served up in a thick-walled, white bowl. She proclaimed it as tasty as usual, although next time she might skip the meatballs and stick with the sauce alone.

Jeannette and I had the Italian Fried Tilapia sandwich. The fish was a nice thick slab, unusual for tilapia. The fillets had a terrific hefty coating of beer batter and had been fried to a wonderful crunch. Served on a crusty chunk of baguette with lettuce, tomato (wedges, a little odd), and onion, it was a sandwich that required two hands for eating. The tasty pesto aioli was served on the side so you could slather on as much or as little as you liked. This was one of the best fish sandwiches I've had in a while; I would definitely order it again. I was even pleased with the side, french fries. After a lifetime of eating fries, I'm over them. I rarely order them, and often if another side dish is available I'll ask for a sub. It takes a really, really fabulous fry to get my attention. These were shoestring fries, so thin and crispy they were unlike any I've had in Nashville. For the first time in ages I didn't just eat the fries, I enjoyed the fries.

We did not have dessert or wine, but I look forward to returning for a more leisurely dinner one day and sampling both.

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