There's a real nonna behind Nonna's Cucina Ristorante, a traditional Italian restaurant nestled in Burlington's Aldershot neighbourhood.
Thirteen years ago, it began as Bernadino's, a delicatessen and fine food store offering everything from fresh meat and fish to freshly prepared foods and baked goods.
Since there was a focus on food already, it just made sense for owners - and couple - Jose and Elena Geada to expand into full operation as a restaurant.
Nonna's Cucina Ristorante offers old-world, family-style Italian fare – that means large portions with simple ingredients and presentation.
Jose was the restaurant’s first chef, learning the tricks of the trade from his mother and mother-in-law. Elena’s grandmother was also a great cook. Her name was Nonna Rosa and the restaurant is named in her honour.
"There was no better place to eat. Everything always tasted better at Nonna’s house."
All the dishes on the menu are family recipes, originating in the Abruzzo region. "We take Abruzzo’s dishes and Canadian-ize them."
The menu was recently streamlined to make ordering easier and a few new appetizers were created including Sicilian Chicken Wings ($16). Choose from an array of pastas, pizzas, seafood and entrees, with specials available on weekends.
Big sellers include Veal Alla Nonna ($28) - tender breaded veal cutlet, served with sautéed peppers, onions, garlic, spinach, roasted cherry tomatoes, white wine, and ricotta, served with a side of spaghetti or penne with sauce, or rapini or daily vegetable. Also popular: Fried Sicilian Style Calamari ($18), Veal ($28) Chicken ($24) or Eggplant ($18) Parmigana, Chicken Marsala ($24), and Lasagna Bolognese ($18) made with sheets of housemade pasta.
Creating the dough for the pizza took Jose six months to find something he liked. Using flour, semolina, water and a little yeast yields a crispy crust as it exits the hot stone oven.
This dedication to getting the recipes just right is important to the Geadas. "Everything is made in house including desserts," Jose says. "Our sauces are made from scratch. It’s made as we go. That’s the beauty of Italian (food) – with 10-12 ingredients you can create many different pastas."
Which helps when it comes to dietary restrictions, etc. No garlic, for instance, is available upon request, something not all restaurants can accommodate.
The 150-restaurant decorated with chandeliers and shutters is made to feel like home. Nonna’s home, to be exact. To extend that family feeling and pride, enlarged photos of Nonna Rosa and other actual family members of the Geadas are posted throughout the space. Jose, Elena and their close-knit staff’s hospitality prove it’s not just the food that keeps people coming back. Live music takes place Thursdays to Saturdays, giving the room an added energetic feel.
Whether you grew up with a Nonna or not, you have one now, thanks to Nonna's Cucina Ristorante.
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