I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is at Nona Mia in Asheville, North Carolina.
Greetings from Asheville, North Carolina!
Sorry: No GPS coordinates due to the gross negligence of the SS Me So Hungry’s crack lead navigator, my evil twin Skippy. Please refer to my hand-drawn map [see pic] for exact location.
When I first learned of Nona Mia it was closed for remodeling. Chef/owner Peter Affatato had found the wood-assisted gas-fired oven of his dreams and had to remodel to make room for it. (I later saw some of the pizzas that came out of it and they would easily make any pizza lover gasp and swoon.) Luckily, this visit the remodel was complete and Nona Mia was open.
Peter and his crew make many fresh pastas, as well as all their own breads, desserts, sauces, sausages and meatballs. He sources as much produce as possible locally. And the decor and staff are warm and homey, inside and out. Seriously.
So let me cut right to the chase: Nona Mia Italian Kitchen is AWESOME!
This gem of a restaurant, located in West (a very important distinction to certain locals) Asheville, bills itself as serving Homemade Italian-American Soul Food. While it’s true that it’s predominately Italian, but calling this Soul Food is, I think, an understatement. I mean, this food is so good, so authentic, so satisfying, so beyond soul food, so … awesome, you’d swear you were eating at an Italian grandmother’s house. Thus the name: Nona Mia is Italian for “My Grandmother.”
I had the good fortune of visiting for Sunday Brunch with my friend Denise and her sweetheart of a hound dog, Phoebe. Because Phoebe is technically considered a dog we sat outside on the deck where she was made more than welcome. After being seated, in fact, the first act of the wait staff was to fill a stainless-steel mixing bowl with water for Phoebe. If that doesn’t constitute a warm “Welcome!” I don’t know what does.
Denise had already eaten breakfast so she ordered Trish’s Monster Cinnamon Roll ($4.95). And while it wasn’t quite Johnson’s Corner huge, it was certainly substantial enough that she ate only half. She said it was really good. I tasted it and thought it tasted like a cinnamon roll; more proof, I guess, I am just not a cinnamon-roll guy.
I ordered the Penne Sunday Gravy ($14). On the menu it says, parenthetically, “Yet another reason to thank God for Nona.” I agree, so: Thank you for Nona, Flying Spaghetti Monster.
This dish consisted of perfectly cooked al dente Penne pasta with “Nona’s slow-cooked meat sauce with pork shoulder, Angelina’s meatball, & sweet Italian sausage.” It had big, bite-sized pieces of tender, juicy pork. The meatball was easily the best I’ve ever eaten. It was perfectly seasoned, oregano-y and hearty, and the perfect density; it didn’t fall apart under the knife. The Italian sausage, however, kind of threw me at first. I’m used to store-bought Hot Italian Sausage. This was not like those at all. It was denser (less fatty?) than what I’m used to with more subtle flavors. Still, it was heavenly, especially combined with the deep tomato flavors of the perfectly seasoned “Sunday Gravy.”
But wait, there’s more: It was served with a Ricotta roll. I thought ricotta was only a cheese. This roll wasn’t cheesy. It was crusty outside and moist, airy and bready on the inside. It was classically Italian, perfect, and so good I had them give me another one to take with the leftovers.
In addition to all their desserts, they also make gelato and sorbetto. I tried the Pumpkin Pie and the Pistachio gelatos, and the Pomegranate sorbetto. All the flavors were incredibly delicate, but I thought the Pomegranate was especially fun.
Still, I have complaints. First, they don’t have ravioli on the menu. I note this only because Peter is such a amazingly talented and inventive chef that I can imagine eating mushroom or asparagus or spinach or whatever he wanted to seal in a ravioli, eating it and yelling “Take me now!”
Second, and most importantly, I was profoundly disappointed that I simply can’t eat all that I want and/or see. The food coming out of that kitchen (open, by the way) is so good, so interesting … hell, I took pictures of some of the things I’ll have next time, like the Porchetta Fried Rice & Eggs Peitro (“Jasmine Fried Rice with Free-Range Egg, scallion & House-Roasted Pork with Radicchio and Arugula Salad”) and Almost Classic Benedict (“2 Free-Range Eggs, Toasted Ricotta Bread, Capicolla Ham, Roasted tomato, Basil Hollandaise & Herb Potato”).
Of course, I’ll also be grabbing a Sausage and Peppers sandwich (“House-made fennel sausage, wood oven roasted red peppers and onions, marinara sauce, melted Mozzarella cheese on semolina roll) to go.
Indeed, if I have my druthers I’ll eventually get to eat my way through the entire menu. Good gawd, Nona Mia, you make Me So Hungry!
By the way, today (Oct. 17) is the Pastafarian version of Xmas: National Pasta Day. It’s celebrated, of course, by acknowledging — in between bites of your favorite pasta dish — that the universe has been truly blessed by the touch of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s noodley appendage. Unfortunately, Nona Mia is closed Mondays. Probably just an oversight.
And so we roll.
Nona Mia Italian Kitchen – 1050 Haywood Road West, Asheville, NC
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.