Eating Out: Family-friendly pizza joint just what Waterside's been waiting for - The Irish News
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Eating Out: Family-friendly pizza joint just what Waterside's been waiting for

Nonna’s pizza restaurant in Derry – a homely place whose food will doubtless improve as soon as staff and owners get a chance to stop and breathe Picture” Margaret McLaughlin
Dominic Kearney

SOMETIMES things can get just a bit too much. It becomes hard to cope with even the most mundane of activities. You struggle to leave the house. You find yourself withdrawing from the world. At its most extreme, some might call it solipsism.

Of course, it’s also known as Euro 2016.

For well over a week, I only came into contact with two other human beings – I don’t count the ITV half-time panel of experts. One was my brother, who shared my solipsism (little joke for all the existentialists out there), at whom I nodded to get him to pass me the special pen we used for recording the scores on our respective wallcharts.

The other was the woman behind the counter at the shop where I bought my Panini stickers. We grunted at each other.

It wasn’t healthy. I knew drastic action was needed. I also knew a shower was needed, not to mention fresh fruit and vegetables. I had to leave Chez Kearney for longer than it took to get to the corner shop (never a corner; clearly a goal kick) to buy five packs of Albanian centre halves, most of whom turned out to be swaps.

The shower was easy. As it happened all I needed was an iPad and the SkyGo app. Leaving the house for an hour called for more planning. I considered the parameters of our situation and announced we were going out for a meal.

The restaurant was identified – five minutes drive away, easy parking. The food – pizza. It doesn’t take long to cook, you can eat it in no time, and, if a quick getaway is called for, just bung it in a box and get back to the couch.

Nonna’s is on Spencer Road, a Waterside thoroughfare of rough and ready charms. We got there at six, and grabbed the only empty table. Instantly we were struck by the bright, modern décor and the lovely, friendly atmosphere. The wood-fired oven is shaped like a hive, appropriate given all the activity. The place was buzzing with chat and laughter, with staff checking how everyone was getting on, with takeaway customers constantly coming in and out.

The menu’s a bit odd to my eyes. Starters include chips (we still ordered them) and a margherita topped with French fries is listed as Traditional, which I doubt. There’s a menu of Artisan pizzas, although I’m not sure what makes them – or anything for that matter – Artisan.

The staff were rushed off their feet (nonna them had a chance to rest!), but attentive. Our food was fine. The chips lacked a bit of crispness, but the dippers were cheesy and crunchy. Our three pizzas, all 12”, were generally good. The bases were as thin and light as they should be, with generous toppings. (They’ve missed a trick with one name though – A pollo 12 with rocket salad – they can have that for free).

I thought they could all have done with a touch longer in the wood-fired oven, especially my meatball Parmigiano, the meatballs lacking texture and flavour. But there was no problem that a bit of experience can’t sort.

If Nonna’s had the feel of a place that was finding its feet, it was probably because it had been swept off them by the response to it opening. You get that sometimes – people only realise how much they need something when they actually get it.

With certain exceptions that prove the rule, the Waterside is short on places to eat in the evening, and a place like Nonna’s in particular. The clientele were striking. It was full of couples with young families enjoying being out in a place that catered for them. There were babies bouncing on knees, mums and dads chatting while their six and seven year olds tucked into marshmallow and nutella pizzas.

The food could have been better and it will get better, as soon as staff and owners get a chance to stop and breathe. But those young families already love it, because they know it’s for them.

Do you know what it was? Sophisticated, trendy, cool? No. Happy.

Only 45 minutes of football were lost in the course of this meal.

THE BILL

(Prices for three; Nonna's is BYO)

Starters:

Mozzarella dippers – £3.50

French fries – £2.50

Mains, all 12” pizzas:

Meatball Parmigiano – £8.95

Pollo – £8.25

Pepperoni and jalapeno peppers – £9.10

Drinks:

Diet Coke x 2 – £3.00

Sparkling water – £1.50

Total: £36.80

Nonna’s,

119 Spencer Road,

Derry

028 7131 3400

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