A taste of cooking from the four Italian grandmothers you never had is headed to River North in early summer. Piccolo Sogno Due (340 N. Clark St., River North), sibling restaurant to Piccolo Sogno, will close at the end of April to reconcept into the more casual Nonnina.
“Nonnina is influenced by our grandmothers—all four of them,” says chef/partner Tony Priolo. He and co-owner Ciro Longobardo brought in Chris Macchia (Pizza Barra, Coco Pazzo) as executive chef/partner to helm the restaurant. The fourth partner/grandson is former Due manager Riccardo Brizuela, who will oversee the front of house.
Dishes will echo the classic Italian and Italian-American fare the owners’ nonnas liked to cook and eat, featuring appetizers like baked clams and entrées such as timpano (baked pasta with meat, sausage, and eggs); whole-roasted fish; spicy pasta fra diavolo with shrimp; and braciole (short-rib roulade braised in tomatoes and red wine).
“[Braciole] is making a comeback,” Macchia says. “I think that will end up being one of our signature dishes.”
Desserts include torta della nonna, a fruit and almond tart topped with pine nuts; and “killer” housemade cannoli (shells and all) filled with ricotta, candied pistachios, and dried fruit, Macchia says.
The dining room will retain its upscale feel with some modern upgrades, like a communal table in the center and a brand-new, larger bar with a mixologist on staff to attract a younger crowd, Priolo says.
The old bar will become a grab-and-go counter with separate entrance called Nonnina To Go, slinging “cost-effective” Italian-American sandwiches, salads, and retail items like giardiniera and dried pasta for carryout.
The four late nonninas will oversee the whole operation both in spirit and in the form of a huge mural overlooking the bar. So make sure you’re stirring that sauce correctly, Chef.