Second to Nonne: From Northern Italy to northern Utah, there’s no better gnocchi than Micheli’s. | Wine | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Second to Nonne: From Northern Italy to northern Utah, there’s no better gnocchi than Micheli’s. 

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In France’s much ballyhooed Michelin Guide, ratings for the top two tiers of restaurants are as follows: Two stars indicates “excellent cooking and worth a detour,” while a three-star Michelin restaurant is one considered to offer “exceptional cuisine and [is] worth the journey.” Le Nonne Ristorante Italiano in Logan falls somewhere between “worth a detour” and “worth a journey.” It all depends, I suppose, on your starting point. Likewise, the food at Le Nonne is somewhere between excellent and exceptional; I’m not quite sure of the difference.

Visiting a newly enrolled nephew at Utah State University in Logan gave me an excuse to include Le Nonne in the scheme. I’d been hearing acclaim about Le Nonne for a couple of years. It so happened that the last time I planned to visit the restaurant, it was in the middle of a relocation. That move landed it in a cozy little house just off Main Street in downtown Logan, one shaded and obscured with so much foliage, it was easy to miss. If you’re in Logan, do not miss Le Nonne. It’s not just Logan’s best restaurant but one of the best in the Beehive State.

Le Nonne—meaning “the grandmothers” in Italian—is the creation of executive chef/owner PierAntonio Micheli and his wife Stephanie. If Micheli’s name rings a bell, it might be due to his involvement in the sorely missed Il Capriccio, the Holladay eatery that itself descended from the much-loved Il Giardino and Michelangelo restaurants. Without getting too bogged down in history, PierAntonio Micheli found himself in Logan after Il Capriccio closed—and once you dine at Le Nonne, you might just be tempted to move north yourself.

The interior is simple, and simply beautiful. I’m not really sure what it typically means to dine in Logan, but this certainly was unexpected: Lovely but uncluttered décor, a very well-trained service staff, a guitar and bass duo softly playing jazz and Italian fare that you’d normally have to travel to Tuscany to find.

The key to the light and delicate fried calamari ($10) served at Le Nonne with its heavenly homemade marinara is loooooong soaking times. There wasn’t a rubbery ring in the entire bunch. But an even more rewarding appetizer was carpaccio: see-through thin pink slices of filet mignon topped with arugula, a spritz of fresh lemon, extra-virgin olive oil and wide slices of shaved grana padano ($12). We managed to split a generous arugula salad ($9.50) three ways and still had some left over, but I refused to share my steaming bowl of pasta e fagioli ($5.50), the classic white bean soup from the Alps of Tuscany which was kissed with rosemary and oregano.

The menu at Le Nonne is modeled on the way Italians eat: many courses at a leisurely pace. So there’s antipasti, insalate, zuppe, le paste, l’secondi and, finally, dolce. The difference is that the portions are massive compared to what you’d typically find in Italy, since many American customers are content to order a salad and/or a plate of pasta and stop there. So prepare to share. An order of Le Nonne’s gnocchi pomodoro ($11.75) easily feeds four people as a side dish or intermezzo between salad and meat courses. Chef Micheli’s home-style potato gnocchi is hands-down the best I’ve ever tasted, bathed in his simple and silky tomato-basil sauce. The secret, I’ve learned, is that he folds some Parmesan into the sauce, which imparts creaminess. The gnocchi themselves are slightly smaller than I usually see in restaurants—about the size of a jumbo multivitamin—and are absolutely superb, three-star gnocchi, for sure.

By contrast, raviolis at Le Nonne are somewhat larger than typical: delicate sheets of homemade pasta presented like airy kerchiefs and stuffed with chicken and ricotta, spinach and ricotta, or crab meat and ricotta. Either would be a good choice, but for simplicity sake, you might want to zoom in on the spinach and ricotta-stuffed ravioli served with sage-butter sauce ($13.95).

I rarely order chicken or veal Marsala in American Italian restaurants because the sauce is inevitably cloyingly sweet and typically tastes like it should be served over spumoni. Not at Le Nonne. Pollo al funghi ($15.75) is pounded, lightly floured and sautéed boneless breast of chicken with champignon mushrooms in a perfectly balanced Marsala sauce with just the right blend of sweetness and tartness from (I think) a restrained use of lemon.

With wine flowing, live jazz in the air and very mature and professional service from our 21-year-old waitress Keira, I was feeling giddy about my new Logan discovery. It might not be Tuscany or California wine country, but for a quick, cheap getaway, it’s not crazy to consider having dinner at Le Nonne and grabbing a motel room for the night, which will afford you the opportunity to have breakfast the following day at Angie’s and lunch at La Carreta (see Food Matters).

If I were to describe my moist, tender medallions of rare New York steak (tagliata) topped with fresh herbs, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil ($20.50), you’d probably think I was on the Le Nonne payroll. So I won’t. Let’s just say that following up the tagliata with Chef Micheli’s dazzling crème brulee is a very smart move—maybe akin to moving to Logan. Certainly Le Nonne is well worth a journey or a detour.

LE NONNE RISTORANTE ITALIANO 129 N. 100 East, Logan, 435-752-9577
Lunch: Monday-Friday, Dinner: Monday-Saturday

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