Chef Tony Priolo of Nonnina shares a dish inspired by his Grandma Faye
Piccolo Sogno…. in Italian, it means “little dream.” It was Tony Priolo’s big dream to open his own restaurant, serve rustic Italian food and see the dream become a success. His dream came true. Plenty of foodies head to Chicago’s West Loop to taste the cuisine and enjoy some of the huge wine collection. First time visitors are in awe of the restaurant’s beautiful year-round outdoor patio and call it a heavenly experience.
Being a chef means putting in long, grueling hours. Despite that, Tony does his best to keep his family first. At Piccolo Sogno, we’ve talked about Tony’s wife and little daughter and how he is continuing a tradition by teaching her to love food the way he does.
Inspired by His Grandmother Faye
Tony’s earliest memories are of the importance of family: sitting in his grandmother’s kitchen, watching her cook, listening to her stories, learning how to make the food he loved. She didn’t stop there. She took young Tony with her, riding the bus, going to Italian markets, then specialty markets … to find just the right ingredient, always the freshest ingredients. He suspects he became her favorite grandchild because he loved those trips to the markets , as well as lots of stops to bring home made dishes to family friends.
As he grew up, Tony realized he was much more interested in what was going on in the kitchen than in the soccer fields. So, he became a chef. He clearly believes he chose this life because of his grandmother and became a better chef because he remembered the lessons she taught him. Tony’s second restaurant is named Nonnina, in her honor. Nonna is the Italian word for grandmother; Nonnina is an endearment.
At Nonnina, Tony serves his grandmother’s meat balls, a dish he can make with his eyes closed since he learned how to make these meat balls when he was a little boy. As Tony taught me, you can make them large, you can make them small. Either way, they’re delicious. I hope you’ll watch the video at Chicago Sun-Times.com.