I arrived at Trattoria della Nonna in the pouring rain, with my family, ready to celebrate Mother’s Day a night early. Dad dropped us girls off at the door and braved a walk in the downpour to find parking on a nearby street, as all the spots immediately in front of the restaurant were taken. Luckily we were in Lunenburg and everything is pretty close by, even with it being Saturday night at 8 o’clock.
The interior of the trattoria is truly representative of its namesake; stepping inside this cozy space you instantly feel as though you’re in Grandma’s compact Italian household transformed into a restaurant. There are three small levels including a bar with the wood-fired pizza oven tucked in behind it, a main level dining space with natural light, and an additional downstairs intimate dining area. After momentarily sitting at the bar and drooling over the pizza oven, we were seated on the main level.
We ordered our starters based on a couple different recommendations. My mother had been advised to try the Caesar salad while a Twitter friend of mine had assured me the calamari was absolutely not to be missed. Both of these items did not disappoint – although I think I enjoyed the salad more than Mom. She passed it over to me about three quarters of the way through and I eagerly finished off the whole leaf lettuce, fresh shredded fluffy parmesan and potent homemade dressing featuring anchovies, garlic and capers. The perfectly cooked calamari offered a thick, robust tomato sauce with kalamata olives and as a side, pickled onions as well as a small salad of dressed greens.
These dishes along with the complimentary wood-fired garlic bread were a perfect start to an outstanding meal. Keep in mind while these were being enjoyed I was sipping on the 2008 Francis Ford Coppola Rosso, a blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Zinfandel, while Dad was enjoying the only on-tap beer they offered: Propeller Pilsner.
Although I arrived at the trattoria thinking I may sway towards a wood-fired pizza, as would be typical, I started to gravitate towards the pasta menu, as did the rest of my family. I settled on the house made ravioli stuffed with butternut squash, featuring leeks, lobster, mascarpone and a roasted garlic and sage cream.
This was a decadent dish all around, the sweetness of the squash filling being met with a rich creamy sauce consisting of chunky lobster meat, mascarpone cheese and of course fresh sage. I deeply enjoyed this dish although I felt it could have used something acidic to balance it out a little bit – whether it be some citrus or even oven-roasted cherry tomatoes.
My Dad, Sister and Mom seemed to have caught on with the pasta trend, ordering, respectively, the gnocchi with quattro formaggio cream, wilted spinach and braised leeks, the Pollo Arrosto which was rigatoni, roasted chicken, grilled Italian sausage, pecans, caramelized onions and a gorgonzola, Southern Comfort and roasted garlic cream, along with the Pescatore all’ Arrabiata – a linguine with seared scallops and prawns, fire roasted tomatoes and peppers, pancetta, chiles and capers topped with a dollop of herbed ricotta. I can’t speak for all of them, however, I did sneak my fork in there and can say that everything was spectacular, especially my Dad’s gnocchi, who’s four cheese cream sauce was absolutely one of the most savoury and decadent I have ever had – incredibly addictive.
I was definitely prepared to help out with dessert, as Mom has a major sweet tooth, and I knew she’d be looking for something to share with her daughters. She chose the Torta al formaggio – a ricotta cheesecake with Marsala soaked fruit caramel. Great idea. My couple bites were enough to report back that it was a classic cheesecake with a great texture and flavour, along with the Marsala soaked fruit caramel bringing a heavy, rich fruit compote on top that isn’t your usual accompaniment. The plating was fun and attractive as well. A great finish to a very indulgent Mother’s Day feast.
As we headed to the car after dinner, Lunenburg was quiet. Not unusual for a small town on the South Shore – but it had that post-rainstorm calmness and humidity. Our bellies were full and the small oceanside town seemed delicate and serene – we headed back home satisfied and happy.