Although Deep Ellum currently wins the prize for most pizzerias in a single neighborhood, the city of Allen is giving it a run for its money. Today's entry: Mio Nonno, a wood-fired pizza and grill that opened in April on Stacy Road, west of US 75.
Mio Nonno comes from chef Ati Mala, who has been cooking since he was a teen. He's joined in the front of the house by childhood friend Noti Krasniqi, whose restaurant experience includes co-ownership of Andrra, a Mediterranean spot in the Hamptons.
Mio Nonno's menu is inspired by central and southern Italian cuisine; in addition to pizza, there are salads, antipasti, pasta and grilled meat.
In addition to pizzas, Mio Nonno does calzones and a sandwich category called panuozzi, using thick bread made from pizza dough.
"Most of Ati's training was done in New Jersey while he was a kid," Krasniqi says. "His 'training' is that he remembers the taste from New Jersey. When you have our food, you get a little taste of Italy."
There is that red-sauce favorite lasagna, but there is also arugula. "We have a couple of the classics, but the reason we didn't want to go with meatballs is because we wanted to encourage people to order something authentic," Krasniqi says.
"Even when we do something like calamari, we dip them in buttermilk and three flours. It comes out crispy and different. If you can find the same calamari somewhere else, please let me know. It's the little things that make a huge difference."
Pastas include the "alla moda" with pappardelle pasta, speck, portobello mushrooms and Bolognese sauce, and the "addiolio" with orechette, chicken, fennel, sundried tomato, kalamata olives, arugula, almonds and pecorino cheese. There are six salads, including one with beets, arugula, almonds, butternut squash and goat cheese.
"Honestly, we're nuts when it comes down to our vegetables," Krasniqi says. "We'll go pick them one by one. We have four different purveyors. We want to keep it fresh. Our walk-in cooler is not big; we have to order every day. Chef Ati always wanted that."
The restaurant has a rustic, old-world feel, with the oven as a centerpiece. There's also an eye-catching 26-foot custom red leatherette banquette made by Dallas furniture maker Storgio Ventura.
The oven is a hybrid combining electricity with a wood fire that lets them get the temperature up to 750 degrees, to give the crust an appealing charred edge. In addition to pizzas, Mio Nonno does calzones and a sandwich category called panuozzi, using thick bread made from pizza dough. One is filled with prosciutto, roasted peppers and eggplant; the other has goat cheese, tomatoes, speck and arugula.
As for pizza, they do traditional pies such as the Margherita, a four-cheese, and one with prosciutto and arugula. But the crowd-pleaser is the "l'Americano," a colossal pie topped with pepperoni, bacon and French fries.