Yeah, yeah, I know it’s close to Easter. But I refuse to feel guilty about the fact that I ordered, ate (by ate I mean licked the plate clean) and LOVED the rabbit (sorry Mr. Easter Bunny) at a newly opened restaurant in West Chester. With so many classic Italian dishes on the menu it was hard to choose just one, so I didn’t. How can you get a solid judgment of a restaurant without ordering a few dishes to taste and talk about with others? So, I ordered 4 dishes to share and discuss with friends. We decided on the gnocchi in a vodka cream sauce, roasted red pepper and goat cheese ravioli, veal piccata and, of course, my favorite, the rabbit ragout.
Each dish went down easily alongside a few glasses of wine from the impressive wine list and were served with the same “your part of our family” attitude that you can find at Pietro’s Prime (also in West Chester.) How can you not enjoy great wine, authentic Italian classics and personalized service in a beautiful space?
Owners of the successful Pietro’s Prime steakhouse and martini bar in West Chester, Sean and Marisa Powell, have done it again with their recent opening of Nonna’s Italian restaurant in downtown West Chester. While I used my bread to wipe our plates clean I had a chance to sit down with Marisa to discuss her new venture.
WC Dish: You grew up in the food and service industry, so was it a natural choice to eventually own and run your own restaurants?
Marisa: I worked at a TGI Friday’s while I was attending Towson University, and I absolutely loved it! Then, when I met Sean, my husband, we always talked about opening up a restaurant in West Chester, and here we are with 2!
WC Dish: Tell us how you have maintained such success with your first restaurant Pietro’s in the midst of a recession?
Marisa: We really focus on food and the dining experience. I try to treat everyone like I would want to be treated, from the employees to the guests. I think even with the economy the way it is people want GOOD food and are willing to pay a little more to get it.
WC Dish: It takes someone that understands what customers want, to take on the risk of a second restaurant during the recession. Tell us about your decision to open Nonna’s.
Marisa: We had looked at the space about a year prior to us taking it over and the price was a lot higher. We figured West Chester didn’t need another college bar and if we could do it, why not? It’s easier to have them so close to be able to go back and forth, which I sometimes do 3 or 4 times a day!
WC Dish: What makes Nonna’s different from other Italian restaurants in Chester Co?
Marisa: I would say that the atmosphere is the main difference. The restaurant is laid out very nicely in that there are 5 different dining rooms, which allow people to be comfortable and have different choices when it comes to their dining experience.
WC Dish: You and your husband are one of my favorite couples in West Chester…how do you manage to keep up with 2 restaurants, the staff, chef, customers AND still make time for each other?
Marisa: It’s tough, but as long as we communicate it seems to work. We try to treat everyone like family, that’s what my Dad always did; so, it makes being at work fun!
WC Dish: Your husband runs the kitchen at Peitro’s, right? Can you tell us a little bit about your head chef at Nonna’s?
Marisa: Sean does run Pietro’s and is doing an awesome job! Big shoes to fill when we opened Nonna’s! We have Laszlo Bevardi and a very talented kitchen staff at Nonna’s that is working out very nicely. Some of them worked for Alberto’s Trattoria, which was the restaurant that was in that location for a number of years. Also big shoes to fill! My mom, Nina Giunta, also helps out in the kitchen whenever she can. She makes the tiramisu, strawberry shortcake and scrippelle (a traditional Italian Soup) as of now!
WC Dish: What can customers expect from their dining experience at Nonna’s?
Marisa: They can expect to enjoy an affordable authentic Italian dinner in a warm comfortable atmosphere.
WC Dish: You can tell I’m in love with the rabbit ragout, but what are your favorite dishes on the menu and why?
Marisa: Some of my favorite dishes are: the scrippelle soup, because my Nonna (my mom’s mom) only made this on special occasions and now I can have it every day! The garganelli chicken carbonara is always good, and I never can go long without the classic, linguini and clams!
WC Dish: What can we look forward to from Nonna’s in the future?
Marisa: We will be adding catering and a more extensive bar menu very soon.
Photos by Scott McCutchen