I myself, Sherman of @shermansfoodadventures, and Joyce of @vanfoodies visited the new spot of pasta and paninis in East Vancouver. What started off as a passion for Italian street food served out of a truck, has grown to their very first brick and mortar shop.
With limited seating and a focus on faster food on the go, most of their business is geared towards take out. However there are future aspirations to make all their pasta in house by hand, and maybe even pizza in the works.
During our visit mid week, they had just opened softly the Saturday before. And our visit coincided with the start of the Vancouver Foodster’s Best Panini competition, in which Nonna’a was completing in as well.
Naturally we had to begin with that. This is the Panino Della Nonna, only available for the run of the competition. Created with colour inspiration from the Italian flag: red, white, and green. Featuring Spezzatino, which is a a rich Tuscan beef stew made with braised beef in a red wine with aromatic herbs and vegetables. Slow cooked for hours and then cooked down into a sweet onion and pancetta marmalade. This is in part the “red” of our flag, followed by “white” burrata, and “green” arugula. This sandwich ate filling, there is a lot of varied flavour in this, with every element jibing harmoniously with the others. They were generous with the gooey cheese, and the stew had a great tomato based heat that ran parallel with the peppery greens. This is a great elevated sandwich worthy of competition.
As for their regularly offered paninis this is Nonnaʼs Meatball Panino. Four medium sized meatballs slow braised in their tomato sauce, topped with provolone and parmigiano cheese. The arugula is extra and only necessary if you are trying to sneak in some greens. This is a solid meatball sandwich, although I personally could have used more salt and enough sauce to drench for a punchier flavour. Next time I would simply order the meat balls as is, they are so hearty that they eat like a meal.
But my favourite was the Nonna’s Speciale Panino. Nonnaʼs fig spread, sopressata, spicy capicollo, genoa salami, fiore di latte, peperonata, eggplant, tomato, arugula, and dijon mayo. This was a decadent assembly of quality meats paired with great Italian seasonings. It just would have been nice to have more of the sweet fig spread come though for its unexpected pop.
Although as good as their sandwiches are, their pastas are what you ought to come in for. If you didn’t know where it was from, you would think Nonna’s a more formal dine-in restaurant, the pasta is that good.
The Rigatoni with its house made italian sausage and fennel ragu was a simple introduction. I thought it a great way to showcase the restaurant’s simple approach to delicious food. The pasta was prepared with the perfect texture. There was enough tangy tomato sauce and hints of fennel covering each tube. It ate with what I can only describe as a gentle meatiness.
The Chitarra came with side stripe prawns, olives, and crispy pancetta in spicy tomato sauce. This was another perfectly prepared pasta dish. When the egg pasta is prepared this well it really highlights the seasoning that easily adheres to it squared shaped noodle, that eats more firm and sticky. The dish reminded Sherman puttanesca with the use of olives and in the fishiness the prawns provide.
My favourite pasta dish, the one I will recommend, and the one that will bring me back to Nonna’s is the Pappardelle with Mushroom, peas, and asparagus in a truffle cream. They were generous with the creamy sauce and the truffle that went into it. This is definitely one of the better uses of truffle I have had to date. The dish ate so sumptuously with the greens offering breaks of freshness. The only blip were the peas. I love peas, and did find these a little on the ashy side, and not as sweet as I would have liked. But it still remains, this is the pasta dish I would order again.
The House Made Ricotta And Herb Gnocchi had a nice texture. Its pillowy gnocchi is served with Nonnaʼs pistachio pesto, zucchini, cherry tomato, fennel, and cream. For those who like a lighter pasta, this is the one for you. I read the description and expected that zing of herbaceous ness you associalye with pesto. However, the pistachio pesto is less fragrant that the usual basil heavy, pine nut version. So sadly, this one fell flat to me.
Similarly, the lasagna too fell short. Especially when following everything else, above. This vegetarian lasagna with its classic bolognese, spinach and ricotta ate basic. I found it lacked seasoning on top of salt and pepper. There could have been much added to this to make it their own, and a stand out from all the other fast food lasagna options.
For dessert Nonna’s has collaborated with Cannoli King, serving the “King’s” traditional cannoli shell and stuffing it with their classic ricotta marscapone filling. A crispy and silky two bites that will have you wishing you ordered more.
Similarly, you can get their fillings stuffed into a once flakey croissant, turned chewy and decadent with all the chocolate or lemon based cream oozing out its sides.
In conclusion let Nonna’s be your new go-to for fast food pasta at very reasonable prices. The quality and taste of fine dining Italian, made accessible.
2166 E Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V5L 1V2