Nonna Lucia takes "authentic" to another level when it comes to Italian cuisine in Bluffton.
Chefs Peppe Gialone and Mariano Carannante have staffed their kitchen with family and friends they grew up with back in their hometown of Pazzuoli, in Naples, Italy. It's rare to hear any English spoken once you pass through the service doors.
"It really is just like a big family here," said Caroline Gialone, Peppe's wife and manager of Nonna Lucia and its sister restaurant, Nonna Rosa. "These guys have been best friends forever. We try to extend that to all of our customers. When you walk in, you're family, and we greet you like family."
Caroline and Peppe eloped four years ago after dating for about a month. Her father, Danny Tinnel, partnered with Peppe to open Nonna Rosa and keep the young couple in the Lowcountry. The plan worked, and they expanded their business to open Nonna Lucia in November, several years and many trips to the old country later.
The rich flavors of Pazzuoli shine through on the restaurant's menu, which features a variety of Italian options, from Neapolitan pizza to veal piccata to the ever-popular bruschetta.
"Our chefs have pizza sauce in their blood," Caroline said. "They say that Americans don't know how to make pizza."
I had the honor of trying Chef Mariano's featured dish that day: Osso buco (bone-in pork shank, caramelized in a savory carrot and onion sauce for eight hours) with rosemary roasted potatoes, plus an appetizer of bruschetta and zeppola (fried dough balls) with spinach and black pepper.
The osso buco was delicious and fell right off the bone when I touched it with the fork. The length of time it took to caramelize was surely worth the outcome.
The zeppola was delightful. Caroline said all their bread items on the menu are made from scratch daily and can vary in seasoning greatly, from sweet to peppery.
I am a fan and plan on returning to try more of those real Italian meals.
Nonna Lucia has an impressive hand-selected list of wines, live entertainment nightly and a happy hour that runs from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. They are located at 5 Godfrey Place and open Monday through Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. Reservations are suggested but not required.
For more information, you can look them up on Facebook, visit their website at nonnaluciabluffton.com or call 843-837-4554.
Shae Dalrymple is a freelance writer living on Hilton Head Island.