Last night we went to dinner at the newest restaurant at 113 Magnolia. This location has been the home for repeated attempts by a number of would be restauranteurs over the years, all failing for one reason or another.
The newest attempt is Nona Rosa's Ristorante, a Sicilian-style Italian trattoria.
Initially I was a little concerned when I noticed the refrigerated display cases filled with what looked like pretty worked over slices of salamis, cheeses, olives and other deli items. The display needed attention to make it look more appealing. On top of the counter next to the register was a pile of dirty plates and leftover food that should have been in a bussing tub on its way to the dishroom.
However, we were quickly greeted by a friendly host who seated us promptly even though we had no reservation.
If the rest of the evening is any indication, Nona Rosa's should do very well. A family run operation, there is an informal, family-friendly feel to the place. The decor is of a traditional trattoria which had a feel as if you were under a grape arbor in a small Sicilian hillside village. Catrina Bremer, the owner, and members of the family all work here. Even Nona Rosa herself is often on hand. She is the inspiration for the Sicilian-style dishes served.
We were very confused at first. The music was distinctly Greek sounding and the menu had offerings that seemed to be influenced by cultures other than Italian. We were set straight when we met Catrina who educated us. Because of the location of Sicily in the Mediterranean, the island was conquered many times by other cultures thus influencing the Sicilian cuisine. We might find cinnamon in some dishes, tzatziki was on the menu and the red sauces were sweeter than many traditional Italian sauces. The sauces are spicier, too, the dishes uncomplicated.
We started with a bowl of the soup of the day, a rich chicken broth with fresh vegetables and chicken bits that was just delicious--and actually came to the table hot.
The traditional Sicilian-style bread served was made with flour, sugar and olive oil, then brushed with an egg wash and sesame seeds. This, too came to our table hot out of the oven and served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
I had made eternal favorite Spaghetti and Meatballs, here called Spaghetti Polpettoni. The generous meatballs melted in my mouth. The spaghetti, house-made was cooked perfectly. The dish was finished with a generous topping of parmigiano cheese broiled over the meatballs.
My wife had the Lasagna, again, with the house made pasta, the rich red sauce and lotd of meat and cheese layered under it. Both our mains came to us piping hot. Both were absolutely delicious.
The mistake we see over and over in many Bellingham restaurants is that they start out with delicious food and over time they start making changes, cutting corners and become a big disappointment. Our hope is that Nona Rosa's, being family owned and operated, will continue to serve their wonderful family's recipes just as they are for a very long time.