First impression: Tavolino Della Nonna means "little table of our grandmother" and partners Edward Pozzuoli, Thomas Genduso and chef Fernando Diaz's pay homage to all grandmothers with both the spirit and decor of their restaurant.
Ambience: Elegantly comfortable, the white table cloth main dining area elicits a true sense of occasion. But for a tug at the heart strings, reserve the chrome-trimmed, Formica-topped table in "Nonna's Room" that seats four to six people. The room is decorated with a working, four-burner gas stove circa 1940, a 1936 General Electric refrigerator, a 1941 skirted sink complete with running water and a monitor airing old television re-runs. Artfully aged tchotchkes such as vintage marriage licenses and wedding photos are borrowed from Pozzuoli's family albums.
Starters: Every blissful bite of the signature pear pasta is spot-on, with al dente pasta, gentle sweetness from roasted pears and crunch from toasted walnuts ($13). The surrounding pool of blanc fromage sauce made me want to lick my plate. Equally hard to resist is the upstate New York specialty of escarole, bacon, onions, garlic and hot cherry peppers cooked in chicken broth and gratineed with Parmesan for a crisp finish ($10).
Entree excellence: Who could sit at grandma's table and not order the delicious Italian Sunday-style feast ($23)? The kitchen slow simmers its red sauce — adding ground pork and beef meatballs, links of meaty sweet Italian sausage and hunks of deliriously tender braised pork. The whole affair is piled onto a mound of spaghetti and topped with ricotta. Other excellent pastas include a spunky puttanesca with black olives, capers and anchovies ($18), and the rich carbonara in a parmesan/egg yolk sauce ($18). While the prosecco sauce appears to be loaded with cream, it's not. Instead, the Italian sparkling wine is emulsified and served over lightly breaded chicken breasts, pancetta, baby spinach and melted fontina ($22). Or try pan roasted tilapia with fresh tomatoes and basil in balsamic white wine sauce ($22).
Sweet!: Few restaurants make their own cannoli shells and filling. Here, they fashion flat shells to make a tower secured by sweetened ricotta, whipped cream, chocolate chips and cinnamon ($8). Other house-made desserts include frangipane-based pineapple upside down cake with caramelized pineapple and vanilla gelato ($9) and melt-in-your-mouth Sicilian amaretto cookies ($8).
Service: Servers have an easy affability with diners, nicely carrying out their responsibilities from beginning to end.
Insider's tip: Allow about a two week lead time if you want to reserve Nonna's table on weekends — one week on other nights.
Contact dining correspondent Judith Stocks at email@example.com.