I'm not gonna lie: I was a little concerned about Nonnina (340 N. Clark St.; NonninaChicago.com).
News trickled down that the highly esteemed team of Executive Chef Tony Priolo and business partner Ciro Longobardo (who are behind Piccolo Sogno and Maillard Tavern as well) left Nonnina, although the spot's host told Windy City Times that they've remained consultants. (Joe Bazzi is the new general manager.)
The new executive chef is John Boudouvas, a very affable individual who has worked at Francesca Restaurant Group, Mia Figlia, Lettuce Entertain You Group and, most recently, at Avli River North. His background includes working with Greek, Italian and even French-Moroccan dishes. However, even if he's Priolo-approved, there's always that chance that the quality might take a hit, as different chefs have various approaches to the same dishes.
However, my fears were assuaged. The antipasti were pretty satisfying. My friend requested (and quite liked) the cheese board, which came with various Italian cheeses as well as crostini and mostarda. I thoroughly enjoyed the pork belly and polenta; the belly was tasty (albeit slightly overcooked) and the polenta was perfectly creamy. Other options include everything from grilled octopus to meatballs to fritto miso (crispy fried calamari, shrimp and bay scallops with lemon, zucchini and basil pesto-caper dressing).
We skipped the salads, although the intriguing varietiessuch as kale, eggplant and burratawarrant a return visit. There are also some very tempting pizzas, such as chicken and spinach; leek and mushroom; Margherita; and nduja and goat cheese.
With Nonnina being an Italian restaurant, it seemed like the right thing to actually try the pasta dishes and see how good Boudouvas' skills really are. Well, color me impressed. I tried the bucatini carbonara, and it was a wonderful melange of the pasta, pancetta and peas, topped with a perfectly placed egg. (By the way, splitting the egg and mixing the yolk with the other ingredients is the most satisfying feeling.) Similarly, my dining companion ordered a stand-bythe chicken parmesan; he loved it, adding that the accompanying spaghetti was cooked very well. (By the way, main dishes also include salmon, chicken Vesuvio, grilled vegetables and even a cheeseburger with truffle mayo.)
As for the desserts, I implore you to try them (although I took my delicious mini-cannoli home because I was so full). My friend ordered the flourless chocolate cake, which came with raspberry gelato and mixed berries. Although he said the dish reminded him of Valentine's Day (pink items), he was more than pleased with the items.
If there was one weakness, it was my drink. The lemonade, seemingly made from a mix, had remnants of powder in it and was very tart. My friend ordered a whiskey sour, and he said the heady concoction was definitely sour (which he actually liked).
However, Boudouvas has acquitted himself admirably. I heartily recommend Nonninaand, if you're not comfortable going there, you can order dishes through Toast, Caviar, DoorDash, Uber Eats and GrubHub.
COVID SAFETY PROTOCOLS: They include socially distant dining, a mask requirement when entering, state-of-the-art air-filtration ionizers, the cleaning of tables after patrons leave, hand sanitizers, masked waitstaff and host, a limited number of diners, a bar-code menuand even bags for patrons' masks.