NONNO’S IN BRADLEY BEACH DISHES CONTEMPORARY & CLASSIC ITALIAN
Combining generations-old cherished family recipes with formal, contemporary chef training, Nonno’s Italian restaurant in Bradley Beach is a culmination of best-of-breed recipes… as well as a few dreams.
In a world of trendy, overly complicated and unnecessarily expensive dining, Nonno’s is a shrine to a style of simply special cooking and eating that’s difficult to find. For their restaurant, John Falco and son Nick – an award-winning, Culinary Institute of America graduate – curated the greatest, time and taste bud-tested Falco recipes and didn’t mess with perfection.
“We serve dishes here that are based on celebrating simplicity and freshness,” said Chef Nick Falco, who trained with a Michelin-rated culinary genius. “The Culinary Institute taught me to understand and respect flavor profiles. Nonno’s menu is creative and classic. My family’s recipes organically stuck to the five-ingredient approach that I trained with and blew the master chefs away.”
Born in Naples, John Falco’s grandfather Joe opened the shore’s first bread bakery in the 1920’s, Falco’s Bakery on Bangs Avenue. For decades, in the mid 1900’s John’s aunt ran Freda’s Restaurant on Ridge Avenue, one of the three legendary Italian restaurants in our area.
“All the military men on leave would come to my aunt to eat home-style food,” said Falco. “They would sit for hours and leave smiling. That’s where I learned the power of a good meal – the importance food plays in life and family. Nick and I opened Nonno’s to carry that tradition forward. You would be surprised how many people have not had a classic, genuine Italian meal. We want our guests to leave happy and full every day of the week – like they would after a great Sunday dinner.”
Nonno’s serves rock-your-world Sicilian meatballs (John’s grandmother’s recipe) made with a proprietary mix of meat that highlights the textures as well as the sweet and savory combination of raisins and pine nuts. The San Marzano marinara sauce – which takes a day to make – is thick, rich and the perfect accessory to the assortment of light, not-doughy house-made pastas.
Two of Nonno’s most popular contemporary dishes are the Nonno Nellie, tender grilled chicken, prosciutto, pea shoots, capers, tomato and parmesan with orecchiette pasta that “cups the beautiful green sauce” and the Pasta al Nonno, an “earthy and flavorful dish where the sweetness bleads out” features shrimp, portabella mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary and very light cream sauce over rigatoni. Both dishes respect the heritage of family recipes while introducing innovative flavors and textures.
Salmon Debrino, pan seared salmon with grilled polenta, French beans topped with an amazing melon sauce is inspired by the younger Falco’s time working in Lyon, France. Nick spent two years perfecting Nonno’s Bolognese sauce with pancetta-sautéed mirepoix precisely chopped to the same consistency as the Angus beef. They serve at least 15 pounds a week to, literally, rabid fans.
“The eggplant parmesan is made the classic Italian way, the best way, like my mom and aunt did it,” said John Falco. “Our entrees are built right in the pan, to-order. Every plate is put together especially for every guests with the best quality, freshest ingredients available.”
And John knows fresh – prior to opening Nonno’s, he was the “J” in A & J Produce, one of the largest produce suppliers in our area. He leverages the contacts he made during his career to serve guests the first, or best or most rare produce and meats available.
Like for the seasonal Jersey tomato, red onion and fresh basil salad. This is the ultimate classic salad – available only when tomatoes are absolute juicy perfection – that you use bread as your utensil for. But save some of the bread (delivered daily from North Jersey) for Nick’s masterpiece, Cozze Anisette – Prince Edward Island mussels, flash sauteed with shallots, fennel, garlic, butter and splash of anisette. The lightly breaded and seasoned, crispy artichoke heart appetizer is another stand-out.
Marsha Falco’s luxurious, delicately sweet shortbread-crusted cheesecake with a hint of amaretto is a decadent dessert and worth the extra time at the gym. Same with Nick’s proprietary, house-made Tiramisu.
Nonno’s is a the epitome of the best Italian family cooking…. with an accessible price point. It’s the real deal. Every overflowing dish is a beautiful canvas of flavors.
“I love to cook everything on the menu,” said Nick Falco. “When guests enjoy their meal they are enjoying something from our family to theirs. Every recipe has our heart and soul in it.”
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