Not your nana's gnocchi 

New Italian market serves family favorites to Briargate

click to enlarge In addition to pastas and salads, Nana Longos puts - together meat and vegetarian sandwiches. - JON KELLEY
  • Jon Kelley
  • In addition to pastas and salads, Nana Longos puts together meat and vegetarian sandwiches.

If you're going to name something after your mom, it had better be something special. Michael Longo and his wife, Pam, know this.

Their new dine-in, take-out and catering operation, Nana Longo's (and First Impressions Catering) pays worthy tribute.

The portions are generous, everything is inexpensive save for the high-end bottles of olive oil available on the baker's racks and, most importantly, the food is generally delicious.

At the recommendation of a friend, who discovered the tiny kitchen and three-table dining area, my girlfriend and I stopped in on a weeknight right at closing time.

As an ex-waiter and generally nice person, I immediately felt like a jerk for not having read the hours off the menu. So even though Pam sincerely encouraged us to sit anyway, I declined to hold up a whole kitchen from going home. That's bad juju.

So we compromised: We ordered our two pasta entres, a salad and two small desserts to go. And, for while we waited, an appetizer of so-good-but-so-bad-for-you fried goat cheese wedges dipped in tomato sauce.

After a torturous drive home, the car filling with strong fumes and none of it finger food to pick at! we attacked the pastas first.

The fettucine Alfredo, on which we asked for added mushrooms, was thick, creamy and garlic-rich. The vegetable lasagne was dressed in a solid tomato sauce and topped with a fried onion garnish, which, beyond presentation, added surprising flavor.

Next was Aunt Nettie's Salad of spinach, strawberries, shaved Parmesan and mint (a great touch), complemented by a memorable tangerine balsamic vinaigrette. Following a rest, we returned to take on a pretty decent tiramisu and two killer cannolis the pastry cream not overly sweet inside perfectly brittle shells.

For a second meal, I called ahead to request a special off-menu order of pesto gnocchi, my all-time favorite Italian fare, which I'd inquired about on my first visit. Mike had said he was willing to meet any feasible requests, given about a half-hour.

Looking to again liven our in-restaurant wait, we dined on a slightly-too-sour creamy artichoke dip served with "pasta chips" fried wontons, essentially. Back home, I enjoyed my basil pesto gnocchi, then tackled Cousin Tusa's Pizza Salad: a mix of lettuce, gorgonzola, olives and red onions stuffed inside homemade pizza dough slices pre-baked with Parmesan and a hint of basil pesto. The accompanying tangy-sweet house vinaigrette was something like a standard Italian dressing with a tomato-sauce boost.

Though a creative dish, it's probably best eaten in-house, before the lettuce has time to get soggy. In the end, we decided that we like our pizzas and salads separate.

Dessert consisted of a pleasing strawberry and dark chocolate gelato parfait, topped with whatever whipped cream remained after we dipped the garnishing strawberry slices in it on the way home. Finally, something to pick at!

matthew@csindy.comNana Longo's Italian Market

1725 Briargate Blvd., 599-9595

Grand opening celebration, May 1, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Regular hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.


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