I am half Italian. (If we’ve just met, I used to go by the last name of Capriotti, which made this fact even more obvious than my temper or my toddlers talking with their hands). growing up, we did not go out to Italian restaurants. Dad made gravy (yes, gravy) and taught my Irish ma how to do so as well. They made lasagna and sausage & peppers and on one occasion, Ma & I even made gnocchis.
We did not eat Italian out.
My Gramma Capriotti – who is still eating with the best of us at age 93 – was an amazing cook. Every Easter and Thanksgiving dinner started with homemade pasta noodles and gravy before the traditional roast whatever/potatoes/dressing/etc. I was a kid with fabulous metabolism in those days. I’m not sure how those soup-to-nuts meals didn’t send all the adults to the hospital. I can still practically taste Gramma’s fresh spaghetti and perfect, smooth, tomato-y gravy, topped with fresh Parmesan and served alongside handmade meatballs and green salad with oil and vinegar… and the pizzelles and cheesecake that would come not long after.
We did not eat Italian out.
I happened to marry a non-Italian (he’s wonderful nonetheless) who is also an Atkins life eater – lotsa meat and salad, very few carbs (which is why his pants are falling off and mine resemble a sausage casing, and not in a good way). This has not deterred me from cooking Italian, but it’s inspired me to be creative. We don’t have pasta without some sort of meat involved (even if it’s a ‘bowl of ground beef’ for my honey while the rest of us enjoy carbonara). We recently had this meat-heavy lasagna from Pioneer Woman that was decidedly not my Dad’s (though his is also, deservedly, famous). And I make dishes with pancetta and prosciutto, which inevitably are still loved way more by me than by Rod. ‘Tis ok. We can work around our different tastes at home.
But we do not eat Italian out.
Except at Nana Rosa’s.
If not for Twitter and a certain banjo-playing Oak Ridge Boy, we might not have encountered this wonderful place. But fortunately, Mr. Ban-Joey gets as excited about his food as I do, and so last month when we returned to Hendersonville, TN, a place we already love, for the first time in almost two years, I really only had one request: We. Must. Eat. At Nana Rosa.
Our first encounter there was for lunch, where we met some new friends who live in town but had not yet discovered the culinary wonder of Nana Rosa and ran into Joe, who is rewarded for the publicity he gives the restaurant with the occasional special-order cake. We also had the Sweetest Waitress Ever, who swung our children upside down, and met Skippy, the owner, who bestows gifts on all the children who dine there.
I was won over even before the peach tea and corn-marscapone ravioli in alfredo sauce.
Our second encounter was just a few weeks ago, when we took a ready Paige for her inaugural trip. That girl, like her stepmom, knows how to induce a foodgasm. Here in lies the photos from our wonderful evening, during which owner Skippy returned with a gift for Randa (who, to my shame, ordered Plain Spaghetti, though she did chow on the chicken soup, too), Skippy’s wife Billie – who’s behind the tweets and the amazing cakes, greeted me with an introductory hug, and our server pretended not to notice Miranda using the rose from our table (which I mistook for artificial) wiping the frost from the windows or the embarrassing noises we made as we cleaned our plates. (think Monica getting a massage on Friends. Pretty much sounded like that).
The tables are set with romantic simplicity, the 3D and 2D ones.
The decor and its sentiments make me smile.
Miranda Rose…found it all to her liking
I especially enjoy the peach tea. It’s wonderful for washing down a loaf of warm, crusty bread and several plates of seasoned olive oil…
This is my meal. I love the alfredo sauce, but get marinara on the side. Then I lick both plates. Just kidding, but seriously.
Miranda l-o-oved the chicken soup and the “little spaghettis.”
I love that I feel like I am eating in a slightly-glamour-fied version of Gramma Cap’s house.
Paige’s clean plate brings glee. Mine brings sadness, that it would be gluttony for me to eat still more!
Rod and Randa celebrated the dessert-trifecta (red velvet cake, lemon cello, and something that can only be described as strawberry heaven with white chocolate ganache, above).
We brought our friend Flat Stanley along (for my little cousin’s 2nd grade project). He found a friend of his own in Miranda’s gift from Skippy. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all bathe in a bowl of pasta?
When I return to Nana Rosa tomorrow, I’ll be doing something like that!