Nonna Zanon is located in a nondescript tower on the far side of West Bay and yet, over the last few weeks, it has been making its presence felt on the Doha food scene. Despite being open for only three months it has already been shortlisted for the ‘Newcomer’ award by FACT Dining Awards Doha 2015, and has also been gaining high praise online and is currently ranked number one on TripAdvisor for Best Doha Restaurants. Qatar Eating went to review the food, and to find out more about this new opening.
It is an Italian restaurant with a small a la carte menu, and a focus on ‘daily specials’. You are advised about these dishes by your server; however the price is not stated, so you would have to ask about pricing of the ‘daily specials’. We ordered Focaccia Bread and Vegetarian Pizza from the a la carte menu, and the Four Cheese Risotto from the daily specials.
I enjoy focaccia dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but the bread was the crispy thin-style of bread rather than the more popular doughy version. It was good but it would have been much better with some toppings such as pesto, as it isn’t really the type of bread you can dip. I also had to ask for something to dip it in. You are also given complimentary pre-starter bread and a small puff pastry square which was lovely – the rock salt decorating the dish added excellent flavour.
The pizza gives off an artisanal vibe with thin slices of eggplant and zucchini on top of a doughy base which was still quite crispy. Some diners may not enjoy this doughy bread, over the usual thin-crust, but for those looking to enjoy a different style of pizza it is definitely to be recommended. The pizza alone is worthy of return visits.
The risotto had a lovely deep flavour thanks to its good quality ingredients including provolone and parmesan cheeses. The dishes were quite large portions, and there wasn’t really much room left for dessert but we couldn’t resist trying one after the success of the main course.
We chose the Chocolate Cake with Nutella and pastry cream – unfortunately it was probably the biggest fail of the evening, both in terms of flavour and price. I was expecting great flavour but instead received a dry cake which didn’t really have any distinguishable chocolate taste. Priced at 30QR it was an overpriced unremarkable dessert. There was a mint sauce on the plate which was interesting, but it didn’t save it from being a disappointing dessert – one to avoid – should have stuck to the traditional Italian tiramisu…
We spent 155QR on bread, two mains and a dessert, which is a very reasonable price point for the area that they are located. However, we were not told about the ‘surprise menu’ (more on that below) when we ordered our dishes and would definitely have considered trying this menu. In spite of dessert, Nonna Zanon is a very good option for those looking for Italian cuisine. The mains are the star of the show, with the chef bringing flavour to the menu through the use of fresh, good-quality ingredients.
After our meal, we caught up with Executive Chef Andrea and co-owner Wassim, who told us more about the restaurant and food. Apparently there is a ‘surprise menu’ concept called ‘A Trip to Italy’ which consists of three starters, three main courses and a dessert. It is priced at 175QR for the vegetarian option; 250QR for meat; and 300QR for the fish. The surprise element is that it includes dishes from the daily specials which change constantly, and so the idea is to revolve the dishes so that diners have something new to try on each visit.
And those return diners are what Nonna Zanon are looking for – whilst we were there the restaurant got busier to almost a full house, with both expat and Qatari diners. They see themselves as a family-orientated restaurant – something which they feel is missing in Doha. Even the name is based on family: ‘The name ‘Zanon’ is the family name of our partner. His grandmother passed away when we were choosing the name, so in her memory we selected the name Nonna (for grandmother) Zanon’.
The restaurant décor is quite ordinary and commercial with high, angled ceilings which results in great acoustics but it is not great for a restaurant as there seems to be constant noise. For some diners this adds to the ambience, for others not as much – it really depends on your preference.
Reflecting family-style dining there are quite a few long tables with seating for big groups. But the place does lack the soul that you would expect from a family restaurant. Wassim talked about still having lots of work planned for the design scheme, and that they had only just finished building the outside terrace. They are also aiming to have art pieces from local galleries on display on a rotational basis in order to add to the character of the place.
Wassim also highlighted the signature dishes: ‘…the pizza which is the different dough from any pizza in Doha and even in shape. And we have the beef tagliata…and also wagyu cheek confit in olive oil for 8 hours.’ The restaurant is still in the ‘soft opening’ stage and is expected to change its prices when it officially opens in September: ‘The price will change slightly but actually people will not see it as we have very low prices on the a la carte that we have now. But we are mainly working with the surprise menu and the daily dishes which are at the price we are going to keep; we are not going to change. People are finding the price very fair.’
The limited menu also allows the chefs to work with fresh, seasonal products. Wassim was keen to highlight the freshness of Italian food: ‘I come from Tunisia. Mediterranean food is similar, and Italian food is a simple food, it just needs good quality product. If we are using good quality product we should be able to have very good dishes.’ He also praised the work of his Executive Chef Andrea, who is from Rome, stating that he was ‘very artistic, he has a great experience, and he cooks very tasteful dishes’. Talking to Chef Andrea and his Sous Chef German you can see that they love cooking and interacting with diners. This picture below, from Nonna Zanon’s FaceBook page, is worth a thousand words, as it really does express the teamwork and fun of the kitchen team:
Nonna Zanon is located at Sara Tower Residence in West Bay. You can call them for information and booking on 55682516 or 40290348. There is on-site parking available; just let security know you are there to dine at the restaurant.
Sat to Thurs: Lunch 12pm-3.30pm & Dinner 7pm-11pm; Fri: Lunch 1pm-4pm; Dinner 7pm-11pm. UPDATE NEW OPENING TIMES MAY 2016 – Sunday to Thursday: 12:00 to 23:00, Fridays: 13:00 to 23:00
Nonna Zanon has recently introduced a Business Lunch menu at 59QR for one course or 79QR for two courses. It is available Sun to Thurs from 12pm-3.30pm.