Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nonna's Chicago Bistro (7.5)

Larimer, LoDo, Highlands, Boulder and Capitol Hill. If you're looking for some of the best food in Colorado, this is likely where you'll find it. I'm guilty myself... I don't tend to gravitate too much farther outside of the city unless we're heading up to Boulder for the night. But if you were to ask me where to find one of the best family Italian places in the city, I might send you off a beaten path. And that beaten path my friends, is Leetsdale.

Now we're not talking one of the classier areas of town here, but that's sort of what makes this place special.
Also home to a 7 Eleven, Subway and tanning shop, Nonna's Chicago Bistro sits right off of Monaco in a small, eclectic strip mall. Having gone to school up that way, I drove by this joint numerous times daily, and never even thought once to stop in. But one of my best friends just recently left for greener pastures, and in the wake of doing so decided to liquidate his collection of certificates and Groupons. Being the unselfish friend that I am, I tagged along on a handful of these outings.

As we walked into Nonna's on this night, it was almost as if I had walked through a space-time portal to Sicily. Being half Sicilian myself (my friend having me beat by another 50%), I pretended that the Corleon family wasn't playing cards in back, and instead absorbed the old world setting before me.  Nonna's offers Tuscan-style decor, old brick, grape vines, lattices and low lighting (please forgive the exposure on my pictures) that all add to the traditional decor. To top it all off, the piano man sitting in the corner was playing "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" as we walked in. I swear.

Now cliche can sometimes be good. The quaint bar suggests a small regular crowd, and a few large families savor their great wine and company with large bursts of laughter. I have to give Nonna's credit for building an authentic experience.

We were warmly greeted by our server and a plate of warm bread with marinara, and soon after by the piano man for song requests. He caught me with my mouth full as before I knew it we had devoured the entire loaf. (The marinara is seriously good, I have a feeling there are some deeply traditioned family recipes at the root of this menu)

To start: zucchini fritti. I'm a sucker for certain things fried, and this is one of them. Crisp, flavorful and nicely paired with a zesty aioli.

After salivating over most of the menu, I opted for the shrimp scampi. And of course, we had to grab a side of meatballs and see what the 5280 honors were all about. That's a nice-a ball-a meat-a. One of those secret family recipes going back generations again, I'm sure.

As for the scampi, overall a pretty good dish with a tangy, light sauce and tender jumbo shrimp just the way you like them. Though great traditional flavors, I would venture to say that at an 18 dollar price point I expected to walk away stuffed. But I can't complain, I was left with plenty of room for the cannolis that were calling our name the entire meal. Molto delizioza. Finished off with a hot cup of deep Italian roast, I was pretty darn satisfied in that way comfort food makes you feel all warm and gooey inside.

I will be back to Nonna's again for sure, perhaps on a cold winter night when you just have to heat up and get away from the frozen tundra. Or really anytime you want to get a bunch of great friends together over a traditional Italian meal, this is the place to be. Hold the Olive Garden. Dish It Up!

Food: 7.5
Ambience: 8.0
Service: 7.0

Service is attentive, but can be inconsistent (I think this can mainly be due to the kitchen getting swamped)
Wine flights are available to pair to your specific tastes (mostly red, go figure)
Avg Entree $17
Certificates available on

Nonna's Chicago Bistro on Urbanspoon 


  1. Love it!! Our students look forward to the coffee, lemonade & cookies they deliver to our auditorium on a weekly basis. vending machine services

  2. Never been, but have always wondered about it. Good to know it's a charmer.