The Food Biz: A nice little place

Sylvan Park pizza, wine bar opens next to Nonna

Back in September I reported the intriguing news that the owners of cozy Sylvan Park stalwart Caffe Nonna on Murphy Road were working to open a second spot next door, called Nonna’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar.

Daniel Maggipinto, who owns both places with business partner Bob Sillers, quietly opened the new joint a few weeks ago. The veteran restaurateurs figured the neighborhood needed a nice little place to enjoy wine — along with the apt accompaniment of pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven.

The little restaurant seats 40, and has a succinct menu. In addition to the 10-inch wood-fired pizzas, the roster includes a variation on the flatbread sandwich called piadini — they start with pizza dough that is baked in the oven, then filled with fresh ingredients and finished on a panini grill.

One of the piadini, filled with luscious prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, arugula and lemon oil, has been especially popular, Maggipinto said.

The menu also includes a couple of salads and a slate of sharable dips and other starters, all made in house, like a roasted red pepper hummus, and a dip that combines a host of melted cheeses spiked with beer and pancetta bacon.

As for the pizzas, a couple are traditional, but some are more unique, like the “Tuscan BBQ” pizza that features chicken and Maggipinto’s special barbecue sauce, made with balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs and just a hint of tomato.

Prices are pretty moderate. Pizzas are $10-$14; piadini are $8; starters are in the $4-$6 range.

Caffe Nonna veteran John Michael Thurman has crafted a small but interesting wine list, tapping vineyards from around the world, including many small family wineries. There’s also a small slate of beers, including some locals. Sangria will be added soon.

A portion of the restaurant’s proceeds go to the fight against cancer in children, via a fund Maggipinto set up in memory of his late daughter Zoe. Sales of Nonna’s prepared foods, like their marinara sauce and famous chianti jelly, also benefit the fund.

Nonna’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar, located at 4427 Murphy Road, serves lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 678-5232.

• Another recent restaurant arrival is Sushi Train on White Bridge Road. After months of renovation, the former Chef Yang’s buffet has been reborn as a sushi restaurant with a novel feature made popular in Japan: a conveyor belt circulates the dining room, allowing diners to grab their own dishes as the selection rolls by.

Sushi comes in the typical packages, maki (sushi rolls) or nigiri, some ingredients cooked and some raw. There’s also a menu of Japanese-style entrees like teriyaki and tempura, and noodle dishes. Yang’s buffet is gone, but there is still a menu of typical Chinese-American favorites, like kung pao chicken, mu shu beef, etc.

And finally, diners can get entrees cooked up hibachi-style on a grill. But sure to grab the most attention is that sushi conveyor belt. Sushi Train is located at 94 White Bridge Road. The phone number is 353-8000.

• If you’ve dropped by the venerable Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on West End recently, you probably noticed that work is under way on a complete renovation of the hotel’s restaurant.

The new name is Mason’s, partially in homage to the fondly regarded Mason jar of Southern tradition.

What’s the food going to be like? Here’s how the company described Mason’s: “a Southern brasserie-style restaurant combining traditional Southern dishes with classical French techniques to create a uniquely local dining experience.”

In addition, “Mason Bar, a rustic, public house-style bar featuring a Mason jar chandelier and nine-screen media wall, will offer live music and an extensive selection of beers, wines and spirits, some served straight from a Mason jar.”

Mason’s is expected to open in May. Meanwhile, the hotel has temporary alternate quarters serving food and beverages.