A hidden gem on St. Augustine, Aviles Street Florida.
Once in a while, you find a place or a restaurant that you want to tell the world about. I can honestly say I found one of those places – a place where the food is great, the atmosphere fantastic and the service is out of this world. A small square, in a small street, the oldest street, it’s a real hidden gem.
Tucked around the corner in America’s oldest city is Oldest Street, a narrow strip of one-way road that has a ton of history and is bursting with even more personality. Quickly becoming one of our favorite streets to visit in Florida, Aviles Street in St. Augustine simply feels different. More laid back than the rest of touristy St. Augustine, Aviles Street will surprise you with its offerings. An old cobbled road with museums, art and restaurants, this little street packs everything it can into one cool little place.
After 5pm, one of the first things you’ll notice on the street will usually be a very friendly man standing there and greeting people with a really bright smile. At first I wasn’t sure as we had never been to Aviles Street before, but as we got closer we saw he was setting up tables outside a restaurant. When we approached him, he stood up, gave the most perfect smile and asked, “How are you today?” with an obvious Italian accent. He was more than friendly and we immediately felt at ease. He told us his name was Adamo and he was the chef and owner of Nonna’s Trattoria. He explained that he was from Sicily and asked us if we liked Italian food. After a few jokes, he asked us if we were hungry. He made it clear from the start that his goal was to seat us and give us an amazing dining experience. Since we write a food and travel blog, I’m usually very skeptical when people talk proudly about their food offerings, service, and restaurant in general.
Upon entering we immediately noticed how comfortable it was. Each table had a lit candle and there was music playing in the background. We were seated right outside the window so we could see the beautiful horses pulling carriages while waiting to be greeted by our server. Soon our server, Brittney, came to take our orders. She had great recommendations and was extremely attentive throughout our visit. She told us that if we liked cheese, we would be really happy with the lasagna or the chicken parmigiana. Nat decided to order lasagna, his favorite Italian dish, and I decided to go with the chicken parmigiana with every intention of trying some of the lasagna as well. We started with the house sangria and their signature bread and parmesan sauce. The sangria was incredibly fruity and served with a big stick of cinnamon and a slice of orange. Adamo explained that the longer the cinnamon stick sits in the wine, the more flavor it will infuse into the wine. After a few sips, we could definitely tell the difference. It was different, delicious and very refreshing. We then tried the homemade bread and sauce. The bread was very soft with a nice crispy exterior, but the sauce was the star here. It was like a really good opening in a comedy show before the headliner took the stage. The bread and sauce was so good on its own that we could have stopped there and been happy. Then we saw our main dishes…
When the dishes arrived we were impressed with their size. The lasagna was made a little differently than what we were used to. I’ve had a lot of lasagna in my life, and often they come on a plate and in a cube shape, and they can be a little dry and overcooked at times. Even in Europe I noticed a similar trend, but Nonna did it a little differently. Their lasagna was massive and served in a deep plate or bowl topped with melted parmesan and mozzarella, freshly grated parmesan and fresh marinara sauce. We couldn’t believe our eyes, nor the onlookers and tourists looking out the window. Nat went for a bite and had the biggest cheese outside of Chicago! One bite and she was mesmerized, then she passed me the fork. “Taste this,” she said happily. I was blown away immediately. The sauce was rich and flavorful. I could really taste the herbs and seasonings in the sauce. The noodles were cooked to perfection. Did I mention all that wonderful cheese? It was absolutely fantastic!
Then it was my turn. Maybe it’s because I always review them, but it seems like it’s not often that a restaurant gets two courses on the same night, but Nonna is delivered yet again. Can I say that my dish was able to hold up with the lasagna in size as well as in taste! The chicken parmigiana was incredibly delicious! We’ve already discussed Nonna’s talent with cheese and sauce so this time I’ll start with the chicken. The chop was huge! I don’t know where they got it, but I’m not complaining. Cooked to a perfect golden brown, the lightly breaded brisket was so moist and flavorful it would probably make Chef Gordon Ramsey jealous! Along with the chicken parm I had a side of traditional spaghetti, again cooked to perfection and smothered in the house marinara and cheese. I passed Nat a full fork for her approval, and she was very enthusiastic. IMHO the dish as a whole was phenomenal and a pleasant surprise for someone who also originally wanted the lasagna.
Finally, it was time for dessert. Another customer told us to try the limoncello cake, so we decided to order a slice. Adamo brought the cake to the table with his usual smile. This cake put the icing on the cake for me. Lightly infused with limoncello liqueur and topped with mascarpone frosting flakes, it was more like a slice of heaven. It was so good that if I wasn’t so stuffed, I would have ordered a second and then a third slice!
In summary, Nonna’s Trattoria is a winner! It’s a great place for a date, special occasions or just to relax. Aviles Street is an incredible little neighborhood, and if you find yourself in front of Nonna’s Trattoria, I advise you not to hesitate. Come in and eat! Nonna’s is lovely and one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had. The owner and staff go out of their way to make you feel special the moment you step foot in the door, and they make sure you smile and keep smiling throughout your meal. I am someone who likes to give credit where credit is due, so I would like to say a job well done, Nonna’s Trattoria! This is officially one of my favorite little restaurants in Florida.