Nonno's Pizza and Pasta
As a child living at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Ralph DiTullio spent his Sunday afternoons brewing hearty sauces side by side with his grandfather in preparation for the family dinner. As the smell of tomatoes filled the kitchen, his mother and grandmother cut and boiled fresh pastas. On other occasions, he found himself in the cool darkness of the garage, where his grandfather smashed and fermented his own grapes to make wine. Today, nearly all the recipes at Nonno's Italian Cafe build on the hearty Italian dishes Ralph’s mother and grandmother used to make. In the small mountaintop cafe, Ralph cultivates this same sense of familial bonding with new patrons and usual crowds alike, proffering updates on current weather and traffic to callers from the valley below.
While Ralph begins each day crafting potato-filled breakfast burritos and freshly baked turnovers, his lunch and dinner menus transition into traditional Italian fare, such as pastas stuffed with cheese or topped with artichokes and meatballs. He and his culinary crew fire pizzas outside in a wood oven, stacking each with Mediterranean vegetables and barbecued meats with greater care than an artist painting a still-life jenga tower. Every Friday and Saturday, the staff fires up the barbecue for sizzling steaks and sausages. To complement both hearty and light fare, the culinary crew keeps a cellar of nearly 2,000 wine labels and up to 70 beers, replenishing their stock with selections from mostly small international vintners and brewers. They present a changing roster of these wines at weekly tastings to suit different themes and keep the wines from becoming codependent with the house crystal. While all sampling services are kept at small sizes indoors, they can spill outside to bocce-ball courts with courtside seating for up to 150.
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