South Carolina’s many culinary virtues do not include an abundance of excellent Italian food. That’s why Nonna’s Italian Kitchen is a treasure. It’s more Italian-American than by-the-book regional Italian, but if you are in the market for parmigiana, piccata, francese or marsala, for lasagna or penne a la vodka or steak pizzaiola, there’s not a better place I know in all the southland.
When it first opened, I was skeptical about early reports from customers whose overwhelming reaction was all about the size of the portions. They are indeed enormous — take-home containers are a common sight in the hands of diners who are leaving — but in this restaurant, abundance is no substitute for quality. (That’s a common deficiency in many second-rate Italian-American eateries.)
Quality is the word that comes to mind when seeking a single adjective to describe what’s served. Nothing is mediocre. Veal is fork-tender; sauces are freshly-made and radiant with herbs and spice; fish is fresh and firm; calamari is downright elegant; bread that begins a meal is top-notch bakery yield. Even the house salad (served family-style) sparkles.
Desserts are a classic roster: cheesecake, chocolate cake, gelato, etc. Although we were absolutely satiated by dinner, my table of five felt obliged to at least try a tartufo (that’s a chocolate-robed ball of vanilla and chocolate ice cream larded with sweet cherries). After completely and very happily dispatching it, we wished we had ordered at least one more.