The NoMad Bar opened in June 2014 and was an instant hit. We’ve been many times. The food’s terrific. But the insanely high noise level drives me crazy. Normally, that would mean crossing The NoMad Bar off the list. What saved the day – or more appropriately, the evening — was discovering that Sundays are decidedly quieter than the rest of the week. So after that, we only went on Sundays.
This past October, something new began happening at The NoMad Bar. Co-owner Will Guidara, who is Italian, loves Italian-American food. For many years, his father ran the famous Mamma Leone’s. Chef/Owner Daniel Humm is not Italian but, according to an article I read, that didn’t stop him from cooking Italian food for Will and his wife Christina Tosi at home on Sunday evenings. This led the endlessly inventive duo to come up with a brilliant idea. On Sunday nights, why not morph The NoMad Bar into an old-style Italian-American restaurant? And so they did! In honor of Will’s heritage, they dubbed it Mamma Guidara’s.
During lunch at EMP in September, we mentioned to G.M. Billy Peele that we’d read about Mamma Guidara’s and would love to try it during my birthday weekend. He immediately secured a reservation for us. Arriving at The NoMad Bar on Sunday, October 23rd, we were led upstairs to one of the tables along the rail all of which have a view of the downstairs bar area.
The place had, indeed, been transformed to give it the aura of the typical old-style Italian-American restaurant: red & white checked tablecloths; accordion-pleated napkins standing upright at each place settings; a tall candle; and a vase holding a solitary fake rose.
The music being played lent a feeling of nostalgia for us — Golden Oldies from back in the 50’s sung by crooners like Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and, of course, Sinatra. The music of our teenage years.
On our table, there was an envelope with my name on it; inside, a birthday greeting in Italian.
My Italian is pretty much limited to “Buon Giorno!” “Prego!” “Grazi!” and “Buon Apetito!” When we were told that the young woman who wrote it was in the house, we asked if she could come by to translate. It was a lovely sentiment which, Allison told us, was commonly used for special occasions (Sadly, I didn’t write down the translation). I thanked her and asked her to sign the card.
There are no printed menus at Mamma Guidara’s . Instead, servers tell diners what dishes compose the meal. The only choices we had to make were which of three chicken preparations we preferred — Parmesan, Marsala, or Piccata — and which of two sauces for the pasta – red or cacio e pepe. Michael wanted the Parmesan, but since it was my birthday, I got to choose and preferred the Piccata. However, we agreed on the cacio e pepe sauce. Then, we sat back and let it all roll out.
House Made Italian Bread
Antipasto: Ham, Cheese, Stuffed Peppers, Spicy Peppers, Marinated Olives & Mushrooms
Cacio e Pepe
We were totally stuffed! We demolished the whole loaf of bread. So delicious, it was hard to resist! (For some reason, I can never open those ridiculous butter packets while Michael does it easily.) Actually, we thought it was all delicious. Most things were served family-style, but we each got our own Caesar salad, pasta, and tiramisu. The hubcap-sized Chicken Piccata was way too big for the two of us to finish especially considering everything we’d already eaten. We managed about half and took the rest home. We also had them wrap the cannolis. (Reminds me of the famous line from The Godfather, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” No gun involved here, but we definitely took the cannoli!) Have I mentioned that we were stuffed?! I should also note I told our server that I don’t like calamari – it tastes like rubber to me — but I’d heard fried calamari was on the menu and was looking forward to seeing if Chef Humm’s would change my mind. The kitchen sent out the arancini for me as a substitute just in case. Well, the calamari was not rubbery and was, in fact, quite tasty. But it didn’t change my mind about eating calamari elsewhere. Oh, I also ate the arancini. Yum!
Michael had wine. I didn’t make a note of what it was nor do I recall if he had one glass or two. We each got the Grasshopper. I tasted it. Too strong for me.
When it was time to pay the bill, we were told the meal was compliments of our NoMad Family in honor of my birthday. Of course, we told them how very much we appreciated their generosity.
And speaking of generosity, when we got home, we discovered that they’d added a whole loaf of the Italian bread to our doggie bag.
To satisfy Michael’s craving for the Chicken Parmesan, we went a second time in December. We asked if Mamma Guidara’s would be continuing in 2017 and were told it would be. Plus, there would be a new menu. Definitely looking forward to that!
The photo set for the December dinner can be viewed on my Flickr here.