Restaurant review: Le Nonne in Logan offers food fit for an Italian grandmother
By Lesli j. neilson
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Apr 21 2012 08:34PM
Logan • As I rounded the corner and got my first look at Le Nonne restaurant, I thought the charming old house seemed the perfect setting for an Italian restaurant whose name means "the grandmothers." My next question was whether the food would make an Italian grandmother proud.
Italian cuisine uses only the freshest ingredients and requires a cook to have a keen sense of restraint to let the flavors speak for themselves. That level of discipline is seen in several successful dishes, but a few others need reining in.
Le Nonne ("lay non-NAY") are the mother and grandmother of Tuscan-born chef-owner Pier Antonio Micheli, who, along with his American wife, Stephanie, introduced this upscale Italian restaurant to Cache Valley a decade ago. The restaurant was originally located on Main Street, before moving to this current location just north of the LDS Tabernacle.
The restaurant has been so successful that the Michelis have relocated to the big island of Hawaii to open another restaurant. Meanwhile, the stoves back in Utah are in the capable hands of Patty Gutierrez, who has been with the restaurant since it opened in 2001.
Art for sale depicting Italian seaports hangs on earth-tone walls in each of the two intimate dining rooms. Light wooden floors and stone-topped tables create hard surfaces that accentuate the noise when the restaurant is full — a sure bet on the weekends. During summer months, the secluded outside patio offers a respite from the din.
For a small place, the menu selections are wide, with an emphasis on primi (pasta, gnocchi, ravioli) and secondi (chicken, beef and fish).
Gnocchi ai quattro formaggi ($14.50) came as tender little cylindrical dumplings coated in an umami-laden, creamy cheese sauce. A rich bolognese sauce, made with turkey, beef and pork, dressed al dente fettuccine ($13). But ravioli stuffed with a crab-ricotta mixture ($17) were drowning in too much cream sauce, despite tasting wonderful.
As for proteins, straccetti al Gorgonzola ($20) paired thin sheets of beef with cream and melted Gorgonzola. Pollo le nonne ($17) were two thin cutlets that were, again, coated in cream with no brandy flavor and lacked salt. The tagliata ($22) seemed to be the same cut as the straccetti, only it’s seared and topped by too many herbs and chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Broccoli and roasted potatoes accompanied all of the proteins. A special salmon fillet ($18.95), seasoned with uncomplementary rosemary, arrived a tad overcooked, resting on undressed mixed greens.
Where the kitchen falters with some main courses, it more than makes up for it with its appetizers.
The carpaccio ($13) — thinly sliced beef with peppery arugula, shaved parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil and cracked black pepper — was some of the best I’ve had. Bruschetta ($11) came as huge chunks of red and yellow Mexico-grown tomatoes resting on terrific charred slices of artisan bread that had been rubbed with cloves of garlic. The lot was drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt, freshly cracked black pepper and ribbons of fresh basil, while the tomato juices that had been soaked up by the bread added awesome flavor.
A glass of excellent red wine would have gone well with either dish, yet Le Nonne’s wine list is unremarkable, ranging from Yellowtail Shiraz ($6.50 a glass, $24 bottle) to Gabbiano Chianti ($32) and Francis Coppola Chardonnay ($40). Most of the selections lack vintages. There’s also a limited selection of spirits and beer.
Minestrone soup ($6) was a study in restraint, with a golden-hued broth filled with chunks of cauliflower, yellow and zucchini squash, carrots and onions. The Caesar salad ($11 for two) had an excellent dressing that dressed freshly cut romaine. Another winner was a hearty pasta fagioli soup ($6), a thickish purée with ditalini pasta and great northern beans in it.
Of the seafood selections, there’s calamari ($12) — equal amounts of crunchy tentacles and rings — with marinara sauce or lemon adding tang and acidity to the tender. Another option is the Crespelle al salmone ($13), which is similar to a pizza, consisting of a crêpe smeared with sour cream, which is shingled with thin slices of smoked salmon. I could have done without the parsley-flecked brown butter poured over the top. It did add nuttiness, but made the dish way too oily.
Another disappointment was a disjointed salad of bay shrimp, undressed mixed greens, diced asparagus and grapefruit chunks and slices ($12). Naked greens also thwarted a pear and Gorgonzola salad ($11) with competing flavors from carrots and tomatoes rather than perhaps hazelnuts.
Best bets for dessert include an excellent tiramisu ($7) with fluffy mascarpone, espresso-soaked ladyfingers and a generous dusting of cocoa powder; and profiteroles ($7) — five whipped-cream-filled cream puffs that are dipped in chocolate and topped with more whipped cream and blackberries. Finally, there’s a moist, beguiling lemon cake ($7) with a layer of lemon curd and frosted with buttercream.
A macchiato ($2, an espresso shot and steamed milk) made the perfect ending to a lovely dinner. Good thing I didn’t order the drip — our server told us it was Folger’s.