SPEARFISH — Nancy Manzari and her husband Darren have realized their dream of bringing old world Italian cuisine to the Black Hills by opening “Nonna’s Kitchen” in the heart of downtown Spearfish at 544 N. Main St.
“My wife has always dreamed of opening a restaurant, so we’re looking at this as more than a business,” said Darren Manzari. “Part of what we’re doing with the recipes is telling the story of our family.”
Originally from Long Island, N.Y., Nancy and Darren said they grew up in neighborhoods where food was a defining factor of the family experience.
“Everything was always about food,” Nancy Manzari said. “You walk through the neighborhood and you could smell what so-and-so was cooking.”
The Manzaris raised their two sons with that same family connection to food. And with two very socially active boys, Nancy said she had plenty of opportunities to express her love through her cooking.
“Our house was ‘that house’ that everybody was there,” she said. “I literally would have 10-to-15-to-20-to-30 boys at out house at any given moment and they were all hungry.”
Around 10 years ago, the Manzaris were invited to visit the Black Hills by some friends, and instantly found another connection to the area.
“We came up for Rally...,” Nancy Manzari said. “The whole time we were here for two weeks just riding around and going all over the Black Hills.”
With their two boys grown and starting families of their own, the Manzaris decided to split their time in the Black Hills, but quickly realized that the connection they felt to the area, and Spearfish in particular, was too strong for a part-time affair.
“This is the place I want to make roots,” Nancy Manzari said. “It gets under your skin. This is reminiscent of the way I grew up, which no longer exists. The character here, its ‘Main Street USA,’”
They made Spearfish their permanent home and after some encouragement from their family and friends, the Manzaris decided this would be the perfect place for Nancy to fulfill her dream of sharing her flare for food with the community.
“We’re bringing an old world restaurant into the town of Spearfish, but Spearfish is unique and old world in itself,” Darren Manzari said.
“I want this to become a destination where people can come, park their car, have lunch, shop, and then go, ‘I don’t want to leave, there’s so many good restaurants,’” Nancy added.
The Manzaris said they want their restaurant to be a place where people feel like their having a meal at home with family.
“This is like you’re coming home to dinner, you’re coming to our house,” Darren Manzari said.
Even the name is meant to reflect the familial connection the Manzaris want the restaurant to have.
“In Italian, ‘Nonna’ is grandma, and I have three grandchildren and they call me Nonna,” Nancy Manzari said.
Although they want the restaurant to feel like a family dinner, the Manzaris know the food will be the star of the show.
“Everything’s fresh, everything’s made daily, all the mother sauces will be made daily,” Nancy Manzari said. “I have no walk-in cooler.”
Everything she cooks is prepared with the same ingredients she has used for years to cook for her own family; including some hard to get goodies.
“The cheese we get is from Rome,” she said. “You can readily get it in New York but I have to have it specially sent here. But I don’t mind because I feel that I’m bringing a different kind of flavor here that maybe will excite people.”
The restaurant will boast some Italian mainstays such as lasagna, chicken marsala, and the house specialty, braciole. However, the restaurant will also include a rotating seasonal menu, which will allow Nancy to stretch her culinary muscles.
“All my recipes are family recipes that have been handed down or neighborhood recipes,” she said. “I’m driving my cook crazy. I’ve cooked so much that I just know what to do and the measurements have been really hard for me.”
The Manzaris have been slowly introducing some menu items to family and friends as they prepare for their grand opening today, and Nancy’s cooking has been creating quite a buzz around town for the restaurant.
“I had a lady call to see when we were opening and she said, ‘I am just dying to try one of your meatballs, I’ve heard so much about them,’” Darren Manzari said.
The Manzaris said they’ve put so much thought into creating a one-of-a-kind dinning experience for Spearfish; they even came up with the perfect way to cap an evening at Nonna’s.
“A ‘coffee experience’ we’re calling it. (Its) something I don’t think a lot of people have seen and I think that will be a lot of fun,” Nancy Manzari said. “We’re looking forward to having you over for dinner.”
For more information about Nonna’s Kitchen call (605) 307-1345.
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