Don’t make fun of the name. Roughly translated, it means grandma in Italian. And if your grandma cooked like this, you would draw blood at the faintest insult to her name.
Situated next to Spiral Diner & Bakery on Magnolia, Nonna Tata is easy to miss. I almost think she planned it that way. With the tiny interior seating maybe 18 people at most, the usual wait to get in can take hours. The wait, however, should not deter you in the least, as you can place your name and number on the wait list and have a few drinks at The Usual while you wait. This is a highly encouraged way to bide one’s time.
If you come expecting an Olive Garden-style wait staff, you will be sadly disappointed.
Service is conducted at a decidedly Italian pace: meals can take a few hours, and courses make their way to one’s table exactly when they are ready and not one moment sooner. And this is how it should be. Your Italian Nonna would have it no other way.
Nonna Tata is run by a woman named Donatella Trotti. She hails from Varese, Italy, and she was sent here to start a revolution in which every Macaroni Grill is burned to the ground, and their collective ashes are danced upon by newly converted authentic Italian food aficionados.
At least, that is how I imagine her. In truth, I have only seen her from afar (about 8 feet), toiling in the kitchen, calmly creating magic.
This is the best Italian meal you will have in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and assuming you don’t travel to San Francisco or the Upper East Coast, the best Italian you will have in the States. The amount of flavor packed into each and every preparation is simply ridiculous.
A typical meal at Nonna will run you a median price of about $30 a person. Make no mistake, I’m not advocating you eat here on a weekly basis. However, even on a typical college budget, it pays to splurge here on special occasions. The restaurant is BYOB, and they encourage parties to bring in their own glasses and bottles of wine to cut down on the cost.
The cozy atmosphere makes the space a perfect place for a romantic evening.
You are missing out if you don’t start with the antipasto platter. At about $9 a person, this is a steal. You get a literally heaping platter of about eight separate yet perfect morsels a head.
They range from stuffed fresh mushrooms, stuffed peppers, various cheeses, perfect prosciutto and other assorted cured meats and apparently anything else the chef desires.
Words cannot express the flavors. Think a few-centuries-old villa on the outskirts of a perfectly scenic town in beautiful Northern Italy where an old woman is ladling handcrafted, shockingly fresh ingredients onto your plate in shocking proportions. At least that is the conclusion my now-overworked imagination came to. Frankly, I had to use my imagination because I have never tasted anything like this. Forget the fact that this could easily be a meal in itself. Just go with it.
On the two occasions I dined here, I tried drastically different main courses, each one a perfect testament to Northern Italian cooking. The first entrée was a veritable stack of thinly sliced medium rare veal topped with truffle oil and accompanied by two kinds of handmade bread (and something green and awesomely fresh-tasting that was sadly hard to care about).
The veal melted on your tongue, and the bread was born to be consumed with its young bovine counterpart. The second time, I had a more healthy dish: handmade pasta filled with squash. The squash stood out like no other cooked vegetable. I felt I was eating the vegetable in its purist form, in the way it was meant to be eaten. The handmade ravioli that encased the plant was a worthy counterpart. Buttery and light, it had a wheaty flavor and unctuous texture that can only come from love and experience.
Nonna Tata is a Fort Worth gem. We can consider ourselves blessed to have our own Nonna in such close proximity to the university. Take a beautiful woman; take your parents; take your best friend. Just take the initiative to experience something new. It will surely become a special occasion regardless with whom you attend.