San Antonio is a city on the rise. You only need to drive downtown and count the construction cranes to realize how fast we are growing, and the revitalization of the downtown area is a major driving force. The city is no longer just a cute vacation spot to eat Tex-Mex and tour the Alamo. San Antonio is now a destination for foodies, adventurists, history buffs, and families. We have it all, and it’s an exciting time to live here.
Over the past year, many of the most respected media outlets and print publications have reported that San Antonio has become the most underrated, under the radar and unsung culinary destination in the country. We’re not just about tacos anymore. The city’s culinary scene is exploding. High-end restaurants are opening monthly, creating a plethora of diverse and elevated dining options. One of the most recent standouts is Nonna Osteria at the Fairmount Hotel downtown.
The Fairmount Hotel is a beloved landmark here in San Antonio, with one of the most unique histories of any building in town. Currently situated across from Hemisfair Park, it is undergoing an amazing renovation project that will position it as the premier boutique hotel in San Antonio. The hotel has always housed fantastic restaurants and several of the best chefs in town have come through their kitchens. The most recent resident chef at the helm is Chef Luca Della Casa, whose restaurant, Nonna Osteria, has taken the San Antonio culinary scene by storm.
Chef Luca hails from Torino, Italy, but has called San Antonio home for the past 15 years. He is confident, strikingly handsome and incredibly passionate about his restaurant. Nonna is the Italian word for grandmother, but for Chef Luca, the term holds a much deeper meaning. Chef Luca lights up when he talks about his family in Italy, sharing how he comes from a huge family that loved to entertain, “my grandmother and mother would prepare lavish family Sunday dinners, and the word ‘nonna’ is the reflection of that intimate feeling of being surrounded by people you love and great food.”
The dishes at Nonna are authentic in their preparation as many of the recipes come from Chef Luca’s own family. His culinary inspiration also comes from his travels and experiences, translating into a unique representation of true Italian cuisine. This is evident throughout the Nonna Osteria menu. The perfect plate to begin your Italian tour is the Burrata Antipasti, a heaping platter of perfectly grilled and roasted vegetables paired with the finest imported burrata from Italy, along with house-made focaccia. “I wanted each bite to incorporate a vegetable, so that you may experience many different flavors and textures in one dish,” explains Chef Luca.
You won’t find your typical Spaghetti & Meatballs on the Nonna menu, but you will be pleasantly surprised with interesting flavors and creative dishes such as the Polipo In Padella. Chef Luca creates the dish by first sautéing fresh octopus with bell pepper, garlic, and onion. He then wraps the tender tentacles around a mound of delicately sautéed spinach, almost as if it were hugging the spinach. To finish, he places the tentacles in a pool of tangy parsley and cumin sauce, garnished with chickpeas and sun-dried tomatoes. Another unique creation on the menu pays homage to Chef Luca’s younger days when he would hunt with his grandfather. The Filetto Di Cervo features a venison tenderloin, endive braised in white wine, and a simple relish of olives, bell pepper, cauliflower, olive oil, and lemon. It is served with a vibrant tarragon beurre blanc sauce complimenting the rustic flavors of the venison perfectly.
The Fairmount Hotel has made a lot of changes to its iconic building, and one of the most significant is also one of the most beautiful and brilliant additions to the downtown skyline. The Fairmount now features an absolutely stunning rooftop bar space accessible only to hotel guests, private parties and restaurant patrons for both Nonna Osteria and Silo Prime Steakhouse. So, make a reservation to savor Chef Luca’s outstanding Italian specialties and enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail or relax with a glass of wine as you watch the lights twinkle over downtown after your delicious meal. It is a romantic and captivating atmosphere unlike any other space in San Antonio.
Although Nonna Osteria is relatively new to the San Antonio restaurant scene, the authentic and imaginative dishes along with the elevated and comfortable atmosphere of the Fairmount will definitely become a cherished and desired destination for both locals and visitors for many years to come.
By Meredith Kay
Photography by Al Rendon
Originally published in San Antonio Woman Magazine