Cono and Anna Morena have deep roots in Williamsburg — not only have they owned La Nonna, a cozy Bedford Avenue Italian retreat, since 2007, Anna’s grandfather owns the neighborhood’s San Marco Pizzeria. So when they began looking for a second location in the same vicinity, they were conscious of the challenges of rebuilding a crowd of regulars. La Nonna’s second location on the Williamsburg waterfront made its debut last week.
The space is at the base of 184 Kent Avenue, a landmark building that was formerly the home of the city’s largest grocer. Kent Avenue was not a place you went to when she was growing up, Anna recalls. But with the transformation of Williamsburg from an industrial afterthought into an artistic attraction, the real estate is prime space for a family joint — even if it’s in a luxury condo building. “We never even thought about going anywhere else,” says Anna.
With the landmark designation comes rules about renovation, but the Morenas have given the new address, which boasts high ceilings and a massive bar, a homey feel. Cono is self-trained in the kitchen, and at this second location, he’ll expand beyond pizzas to octopus, Chilean sea bass, a ribeye, and lamb chops with goat cheese.
And the Morenas hope to make the spot just as warm as their original restaurant. “Come in as a guest, and leave as a friend,” says Anna.
Don’t hold your breath for future nonnas to make an appearance inside or outside the neighborhood, though: “Right now, we’re good,” Anna says. “When you start having too much, you start slacking.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 21, 2014