Take the No. 68 bus from Jefferson Park up Northwest Highway and uncover Edison Park's cozy strip of restaurants and boutiques, evocative of family retreat locales like Georgetown and Gatlinburg, Tenn. After window shopping for knick-knacks and handbags, or perhaps fresh from a manicure at the block's nail salon, Nonno Pino's relieves your hunger with home-cooked Italian.
The neighborhood's high-end, blue-collar workers drop in celebrating communions, baptisms, birthdays and graduations. The room divides into a dining room set in three rows of tables draped in white cloths. Pastoral black-and-whites of families in the kitchen dot exposed brick reaching endlessly for a turn-of-the-20th century tin roof high off hardwood floors. A lounge area cradled before French doors and a blue whale-sized bar works for loners and informal affairs.
While the dining room wait staff appeared on their toes, refilling waters, exercising control handling rambunctious children and their indecisive parents, the same didn't apply to the bar staff too distracted with workspace gossip and not connected enough with their clientele. Keeping it up may result in a patron eventually sassing, "Oh Nonno didnít!" Fortunately, this time, owner Mike Sheahan dived in, redeeming the restaurant's five stars.
Chat with Sheahan long enough and he'll recommend the breaded rigatoni (a signature appetizer) or the Pino puffs before your best-selling pistachio-crusted chicken in a roasted pepper cream sauce with polenta and grilled asparagus ($16.50). Considering the community, the menu lingers on the fairly inexpensive side. The same applies at the bar, where martinis on Thursdays sell for $4. Continue pinching pennies on Tuesdays for a $21 five-course meal.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez