Nonna’s Kitchen – a family affair.

Nonna’s– well well well. What a glorious surprise.  On Morningside Road, right next to The Churchill Theatre the perfect spot for us for an early Saturday dinner as we were off to the Edinburgh Gay Mans Chorus at 8pm – more of which later.

A family owned and run business. Running the show now is Gino Stornaiuolo but when they say family they mean family and the whole family are here smiling, working and welcoming. Gino’s father the chef at Nonna’s – Mimmo has worked that stove for over 40 years and he cooks like a dream with a lightness of touch that makes your heart sing.  If you think even for a moment that a chef of a certain age might be in danger of being stuck in the past, think again.

 

Nonas exterior does them no favours – brown,  grey slate tiles which hardly made my heart sing as we pulled up outside. But the second we were over the threshold at 6pm on Saturday ye old adage ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ tripped into my brain. The place was packed with a great buzzing atmosphere, tables and chairs are light, the walls clean and bright with pepperings of photographs of Italy, family a lovely warm, welcoming, modern space.

Smiling staff showed us over to our table and with it a drink was offered. Gavi for the wine lovers and for me a glass of Prosecco which arrived quickly with a fresh strawberry bobbing about in it.  Perfect gargling material as we perused the menu – which is great full of favourites pizzas, pastas, salads but the remarkable, eye watering, amazing thing is the waiter Jimmy who came over and listed the specials. It was like a Victorian memory man show. There must have been over 20 specials including starters, mains and desert – and he reeled them off without hesitation.

This is a family business and Jimmy has worked with them for about 30 years. He started with them at The Patio in Hanover Street and then when they moved up to Nonna’s Jimmy moved too. What a guy  – with a memory like that Britain’s Got Talent may very well snap him up.

Seafood was dominant and as he listed each item I fancied the lot. Decisions had to be made. To start I had king prawns with chilli and tomato, chilli which arrived in a flat dish with a lip and a soup spoon as you wouldn’t want to leave one drop of this unctuous flavoursome liquid. Others kept swooping in with their bread to taste as I fought them back with my fork. Long suffering husband loved his scallops & black pun, Dyna had tomato and mozarella salad, thick coins of cheese with tasty red tomatoes with fresh basil neatly laid on top and Bridezilla the dressed crab which he declared was wonderful too.

Main course seafood linguine for two of us with fresh clams, garlic, tomato and chilli – they were struck dumb as they sooked up the delicious spaghetti and popped the sweet, tender clams into their smiling chops. The other two  we we had the seafood platter – grilled. Salmon, scallop, squid, hake, all sorts of white fish lightly grilled and served salad and a chunk of lemon. I swear it couldn’t have been better. Bridezilla had chips too and we the fresh bread and butter replenished. We were excited and already planning to come back but were on a count down to the concert at The Churchill Theatre so could we fit in a pud – well bring it on. Special again! Chocolate mousse and ice cream sundae with cream, nuts and chocolate sauce – two specials four spoons. Four sticky happy faces as we paid and ran for the door. Realising the bus that goes right past them goes right past our place on the other side of town we are all now seriously considering a season ticket.

To sum up. This is a cracking Italian restaurant – the dishes you expect are there – pizza, pastas, meaty delights and the specials are really special – last night on top of the plethora of fishy offerings were T Bone steak or rack of lamb amongst others. If you can’t find something you love on this menu then you should not allowed  out. A great family owned and run local restaurant. If you’re not local to the area – travel it’s worth it.

Nonna’s Kitchen

45 Morningside Road

Closed on a Monday

Tues – Sun – 10-2.45pm  5pm – 10pm

 

To be or 2 1 2 1 2?

So it was the long suffering husband Howies birthday.

So where to go? What to do?

Well with himself being in the restaurant business – Howies -it had to be a food related odyssey.  Despite the fact 24/7 he is steeped in the world of catering there is one thing it is imperative to do as a restaurateur and that is to go out and eat in other restaurants as often as possible. This is hardly a strain. We just love food. From day one food has been our shared passion – along with wine, dogs and fun. He from the restaurant side of life, me from the food critic side of life. Critic in The Herald, presented two food programs on STV and more recently a judge on Iron Chef – you can imagine going out to eat with the pair of us would be a nightmare. So just as well we can put up with each other.

Over the years we have been fortunate to eat in 1000s of different places. Small, big, good, bad, eccentric, snooty, vague, pop-up, average, in fact the whole jing bang but one place that had so far eluded our taste buds was 21212 in Edinburgh. Mixed verbal and written reviews from friends had failed to excite us when they opened which was ages ago and with a celebration afoot it was such an obvious omission in our culinary journey we went for it.

 

21212 is on Royal Terrace a lovely Georgian street off the top of Leith Walk in central Edinburgh and just round the corner from our very own Howies Waterloo. So taxi for Howie off we went for a birthday lunch.

 

We were greeted with a big smile which immediately dispelled the previous rumours of pretentious nonsense and shown into the dining room which is plush, in muted bluey, greys, with up holstered cream chairs, soft furnished booths, linen tablecloths, and a contemporary chandelier. Despite the age of the room and  the well known listed building nightmare restrictions in Edinburgh the kitchen is visible through a Perspex wall at one end of the room – a masterful design element and compelling if the process of food preparation fascinates.

 

Our actual seat with the sparkling kitchen in the background.

Luckily we weren’t facing the kitchen as we ould have just stared in like a pair of dafties no we were shown to a booth facing the other way. Result. No sooner had had we sat down we were offered water and 3 wee dishes olives, crisps and well I am not sure what the third thing was – were delivered. The 3rd mystery dish looked like it held tooth picks but by now we were too busy marvelling at the menu to enquire what they were. A la kazaam. (whatever that actually means) Foodie heaven.

 

The smiley sommelier offered us a drink – champagne – well its only once a year – English champagne he described it as  strawberries and cream – Sold!  And he was right it was just that – perfect. A lush start.

The name of the restaurant 2 1 2 1 2  describes the menu.

Two starters to choose from

1 soup

2 main course to choose from

1 cheese

2 sweets to choose from.

 

You can have 3 or 5 courses. We decided to go for 3 leaving the soup and cheese and just order and share the lot which saved a lot of humming and hawing. We were both keen to try everything so this was an easy option.

The  mind boggling number of elements to each dish was something we were both looking forward to experiencing. At Howies we celebrate simple. You know the sort of thing, slow cooked lamb shank, roasted vegetable with creamy mash…equally as valid as this other extreme.   Howies food ethos the ABC of simple yet perfect (well I would say that)  and then 21212 at the other end of the spectrum -more Stephen Hawking in sanskrit.

 

Home made bread arrived fresh & yeasty , soft and utterly irresistible I had to say no after my first slice or I would have had a loaf before the main event.  You help yourself to as many slices as you want there was none of that  individual slice delivery type thing which again dispelled the now myth of snooty nonsense.

The place was busy. Every table virtually full. It is graduation time but nonetheless is shows recession or not people will push the boat out if they feel the need.

Its impossible to list the ingredients – we kept the menu at the table during our meal to refer to as we tasted each morsel and texture. Remarkable. To write this down would have taken away the pleasure of eating it. To forensically list each thing would look impressive but by the time I had done that the meal would have been cold and more to the point my lunch partner would have scoffed the lot. So I find myself saying – trust me I’m a foodie. Delicious and despite the eye popping number of different elements all present and correct. I have copied an example of their menu below so you can see what I am withering on about.

There was a sliver of something fabulous we could not name nor guess so we asked. The answer was a dried gherkin. I  had guessed at liquorice but I was well off course. A dried gherkin the sort of thing I scraped off the floor of my fridge as a student and binned with the aid of a rubber glove , My how things change,

We deliberately ate slowly.

It’s an intimate space. One to relish not write about at the time.

As we paused after our main course extravaganza. The call of the cheese was  too strong to ignore so it was duly ordered as the birthday boy is a fromagaholic. 9 pieces of cheese – yes nine –  a cut and presented in a wheel shape with a plate teetering with different crackers, biscuits, slivers of homemade crispbreads, the favourite Pittenweem chunky oatcake. There was a man who spoke fluent fromage and he talked through each one. There were goats, ewse, coos . They were from all over and the one that had us hooked was called Morbier.

Good memory? No not really I texted myself as I knew the second I tasted it I had made a friend for life.

Sweets next. One trifle. To say trifle is to say pure mathematics is the 2 times tables. The other option a crème brulee but again tis is the understatement of this millennium to call it just that.

Presentation and taste again impeccable.

Only one mystery. Everyone at this point is given a tiny cardboard scoop of oaty milk – it tasted like Alpen soaked milk – not sure that that was all about but horsed it anyway. Perfectly nice taste but nothing special andwould have been just as happy without it.

Conclusion.
Gee food in such detail is hard work to produce.

The atmosphere was relaxed and elegant

The staff friendly and knowledgeable

The food – well I think you get the gist – it was outstanding.

Remarkable imagination, execution and delivery and most important of all taste.

A feast for the eye and the palate.

So….we are happy in our restaurant niche and they are happy in theirs.

Vive Le Difference!

Google 2 1 2 1 2  and you get endless 2 for 1 vouchers which I suspect will not be valid for this restaurant – click here though and it will take you the website Restaurant 21212 if you are a foodie it is an experience not to miss. Yeh it’s not the cheapest option in town but it is something you will remember for a long time to come.

MENU EXAMPLES FROM WEBSITE

This is one main course.

Chicken Curry, Pineapple & Artichokes

Slow Cooked Breast Of French Corn Fed Chicken,

Artichokes, White Cauliflower, Breakfast Radish,

Anya Potatoes, Saffron Onions & Pineapple Confit,

Soft & Crispy Pancakes, Coconut Shards,

Piccalilli Mayonnaise, Argon Oil

 

3 course lunch £28   4 course  £38      5 course £52

Dinner: £68

 

As opposed to Howies which in Edinburgh is £8.95 for a 2 course lunch- yeh but different strokes for different folks but the generous birthday boy has given me a voucher to give away. Lunch for two with bottle of wine at any of the Howies – whichever you fancy – there are two in Edinburgh, one in Aberdeen. Just answer this simple question:

What year was Howies started?

Please send your answer to:

alison@alisonsdiary. com

Subject: Win a lunch

I will announce the winner on 20th July.