Casa Nonna had barely been open a month when Grub Street broke the news that parent company, BLT Restaurants, was going to launch an outlet of the family-style eatery in New York. The New York blog seemed rather dumbfounded that the Big Apple should accept any concept not born within its borders.
But here was the interesting nugget in the Grub Street post: Amy Brandwein, the chef at the D.C. location, was going to be “involved in the New York spot, which is scheduled to open this spring.” As part of this week’s Young & Hungry column, I spoke with Brandwein about what role she’ll play in the Gotham branch.
“It will be a long distance relationship,” Brandwein told me. “I will be involved. That’s all I can say right now.”
Brandwein noted that her first priority is the Dupont location of Casa Nonna, which she said is, to a certain degree, still a work in progress. It opened in mid-September, for example, and Brandwein continues to experiment with the pizza dough. The chef has been trying different flours, eventually landing on a combination of pizza and Parisian flours, which provide both softness and crispiness. She’s also messing with fermentation times. “We weren’t letting it sit long enough” in the beginning, Brandwein said.
That, no doubt, explains why the pizzas I sampled for this week’s column were so dramatically different. It also explains why Casa Nonna is already such a strong restaurant: The chef is never satisfied.
Amy Brandwein, I think, can make it in New York.