Several months ago, I visited Barbusa in San Diego’s Little Italy and experienced a delicious meal there. Recently, I was again in San Diego, this time, we decided to try its sister restaurant, Nonna, also located on India Street just a short walk away.
The quintessential image of elderly gentlemen engaging in conversation with one another while sipping on espresso is one I’d expect in Italy. However, we were treated to a replication at Zucchero, the little cafe attached to Nonna which offers Italian coffee and a desserts ranging from cannoli to an array of cookies such as biscotti, spritz, and amaretti.
After getting comfortably seated at the banquette aligning the back wall, our server Raymundo guides us through the menu. Then, he brings us a basket of warm delicious bread while we browse the menu.
Being a huge fan of octopus, Polpo Grigliato ($15.21) immediately jumped out. The grilled octopus is well executed with a good enough chew, but remaining tender throughout. The octopus pairs extremely well with the arugula salad tossed in delicious Italian salsa verde, dotted with potatoes and caramelized onions. The result is a well balanced dish with ample acid to please my palate.
If you’re looking for a salad, then I highly suggest Tritata ($8.95) is a chopped salad of sorts comprising shards of Romaine lettuce, crispy pancetta, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, olives, and Fontina cheese, all tossed in a bright Italian vinaigrette. I love garbanzo beans in salads as it bulks up the dish, while adding fiber and protein at the same time. This salad suffices as an entree, but works great as a shared item for the table.
Moving on to main courses, the Risotto Alla Pescatore ($21.86) is a solid and hearty dish of al dente rice studded with calamari, mussels, clams, and shrimp, enveloped in a tomato brodo. I love the flavors in this dish with bold umami coming to the fore in every bite.
Not many restaurants offer saltimbocca on their menus, so when I see Involtini Saltimbocca ($21.35) I knew we had to order it. The veal ‘roll-ups’ are stuffed with prosciutto and Fontina cheese and served on a bed of sauteed spinach. I loved the sauce and piquancy of the overall dish, however, the veal was slightly dry, and I would have preferred the sage garnish to be fried instead of au naturel, to give it a little textural contrast.
We can’t leave without trying one of Nonna’s pizzas, so after much debate, I finally decided on Salsiccia ($15.85) which sees fennel sausage at its fore, along with San Marzano tomatoes, rapini, black olives, and mozzarella. The pizza is savory and tasty, but could do with a little more time in the oven for a crispier crust. It was even better the next day as leftovers warmed up in the oven.
I love the atmosphere at Nonna with its wide open space, and patio dining should you choose to dine al fresco. I truly believe how staff are trained, and how they interact with customers reflect greatly on their employers, and this is where the Busalacchi family shines. Our experience with Mario at Barbusa, and now Raymundo at Nonna is testament to how the business is run — that everyone is welcomed like family, regardless of whether you’re staff, or customer.
1735 India Street
San Diego, CA 92101