I Nonni – Lilydale


I chose I Nonni as the restaurant for my birthday dinner two years ago. It was our first time there. Besides having won awards for some of the best Italian in the Twin Cities, I was intrigued by their extensive wine list. We were going to Italy for our honeymoon just a month later and they had obscure wines from the Amalfi Coast on the menu. You won’t find Falanghina or Aglianico wines on 95% of Italian restaurant menus in the U.S.!

We enjoyed our meals thoroughly that evening {especially the fresh, handmade pasta} and we talked about going back, even if just for Happy Hour in the bar. But with so many dining options in the Twin Cities, it took a Groupon to get us back there. Actually, we had two of them to use.

Furthermore, this summer we had so many Groupons to use that we had them scheduled on our calendars so that we would redeem them before they expired. I Nonni was slotted for a Monday after our Summer Couples Golf League.

But we couldn’t get in.

We tried on two different Mondays. On both occasions the sign read:




I had been perusing their menu online that day to narrow down what I wanted to order. On the website, there was no mention that there was a private event, nor that their restaurant would be closed. It was so frustrating! And what are the chances that the restaurant would be closed on the two specific Mondays that we chose to dine there? Sure, I could have made reservations, but I never knew what time we could get there after golf. Besides, we just wanted to eat in the bar.

On the third attempt, I called ahead. Would there be a private event that night? No. Whew. We were in luck.

Upon arrival, we entered the restaurant through the door next to their sister shop Buon Giorno Italian Market. The market carries fine Italian foods as well as offers sandwiches, pastas and salads in a casual deli-like setting where you can eat-in or take to-go. They also offer catering and Holiday Gift Baskets. We’ve walked through the place a few times, but have never bought anything. I now have a sudden urge to go back. Maybe I can find the Blood Orange San Pellegrino that Rob so adores.

Anyway, entering I Nonni through the door near the Market leads you to the wine room. The wine list is extensive and impressive at I Nonni and consists of, I believe, only Italian wines. They claim that it’s one of the finest lists in the U.S. And while I can’t vouch for that personally, I have no reason to argue that! I can’t find it anywhere on their website, but I seem to recall that you can purchase any wine in this room for service at your table. Don’t quote me on that. Just ask instead. In addition, an Italian Wine Club is offered where they bring in Italian wine makers for tastings and to meet you!

We walked through the wine room into the bar and found a place to sit.

We ordered some beverages:


VECCHIONE nonno nick’s Milwaukee style old fashion


APEROL SPRITZprosecco, aperol, orange

Fun drinks, but nothing to write home (or on a blog) about…

While we were skimming the bar menu, I also looked around the room. Two people walked in. I did a double take. Wait, they came in a side door… Wha What? OMG – through a different entrance! Maybe the restaurant wasn’t closed those other two times. Maybe we just tried to enter through the wine room – which was closed for a private event!


Yes, they often host private events in their wine room. I resolved to use the correct entrance on our next visit.

But, we did enjoy our food while we were there:



Good Burrata, with fresh tomatoes, basil and olive oil. But not the best I’ve had. It didn’t stop me from finishing it, though!


House-made pasta, spicy sausage fennel pollen ragu

Rob loved this dish and would not only order it again, but would recommend it to anyone.

When we returned to use our second Groupon, we did use the correct door. To do so, just use the long corridor on the left side of the building under the Osteria I Nonni arch. We saw another party walking in that direction. This whole time, I thought that walkway was only for those who wanted to dine outside. WRONG, I was. This is where you enter the bar.

Of course, the restaurant was open. To this day, I feel like a complete idiot. On this trip, we wanted to try some of the pizzas on the bar menu.


Pizza Salasiccia

We were not impressed with the pizzas. Sausage is one of our favorites and this one was pretty much flavorless. We asked them for some red pepper flakes and the bartender had to fish a bowl of it out of the kitchen for us.


Half Pizza Salsiccia Half Pizza Margherita

I couldn’t decide if I wanted the Pizza Calabrese or the Pizza Margherita, so the bartender suggested that I get half and half. He made it sound like it was a big favor he’d be doing to ask the kitchen to do this for me. However, it came out half sausage / half margherita instead. No matter, I was hungry. Still, I received it after Rob received his pizza and we knew the sausage pizza was pretty flavorless. We could not believe when we tasted the Margherita how much better it was!

Our notes: Go to I Nonni for the fresh pasta – not the pizza. If you are really craving pizza, stick with a simple margherita.

Maybe we were just spoiled by the pizza in Italy, but to us, this wasn’t really Italian. It was I Nonni’s own take on Italian, which basically, is any pizza in America.

I Nonni’s menu is seasonal, which I love. Looking at the menu today, we are anxious to try the:

house-made spicy sausage with black truffle, fennel pollen, crema and pecorino romano

For that reason, we may be going back soon…

What is your favorite place to dine for pizza or pasta where you live?


One response »

  1. Pingback: Last Weekend | Season It Already!

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