Scala del Nonna

Scala del Nonna

Scalas del Nonna
NJ Town: Montclair
Cuisine: Italian

I’ve walked by this joint a million times. I think perhaps it was Japanese at one point. It was always a little confusing, though. It has this fancy sheen on it from the outside, but also a really dirty awning. And an interior that I realize I never saw due to either sun glare or window tinting or something going on. And it wasn’t until I walked in for this meal that I realized the room was kind of awkward, the wall art pretty terrible and the fit and finish pretty beat up around the edges. And then our “waiter” arrived.

And, look, I’m not ageist. I love older people. I mean, I tolerate them. But our waiter was a couple decades past his prime. He talked very quietly in a space that demands some oomph behind conversations. Despite asking, he said there were no specials (which we realized was not true after hearing another server recite them at another table). And disappeared on several occasions. And in other situations kind of wandered around by the weird counter at the head of the space seemingly lost in thought. His fellow servers seemed to notice his delinquency and jumped in to help. They didn’t like tap him on the shoulder and remind him he was working, but rather just spied him standing around and were cool enough to come over and look out for us. I did appreciate these folks, but the whole situation was just kind of weird. Ms. Hipster and I spent a good deal of the evening questioning what the hell was going on rather than focusing on our food. Which was all together funny, confounding and just a little bit sad.

So, I like mussels. Or at least I like the stuff mussels float in. Though I still like to actually have mussels in my mussels, if you know what I’m saying. The issue with Scala del Nona’s version is that it was mostly a bowl full of empty shells. Or sealed shells. Or open shells with very shrinky-dink sea creatures in them. Luckily the broth was very tasty. Though that’s like ordering spaghetti and meatballs and only praising the sauce. Because the meatballs are missing. Or the pasta. Anyway, I took my next swing and got the mushroom ravioli. Which is always a risk. But these were actually decent and reasonably plentiful. The pasta was well-cooked, the filling flavorful and the sauce perfectly creamy and rich. Good stuff. Ms. Hipster was less than thrilled with her meal. I believe the kids call it “mid.”

However, they hit it out of the park with my flourless chocolate tort. My god, man. That was some really good stuff. I’m not even a dessert guy, but this was worth the price of admission alone. All in all, my food was pretty good in terms of flavor profile and prep — with the exception of the skimpy mussels. And perhaps Ms. Hipster just ordered wrong. Or perhaps she was distracted by the oddball space and our low-talking waiter who decided to go on a walkabout in the middle of service. I have to assume that dude is someone’s uncle. Or perhaps this was a no-show job he was promised, but nobody told the manager? Whatever the case, my hope is he’s retired by now, because the other servers who subbed for him were actually really good. I think the place could also use a good decorator and/or architect to spruce up the space. As it stands now, it’s just kind of dated and distracting. It’s no wonder so many people sit outside on Church Street when it’s warm enough outside for them to do curbside table service. I think that’s the call.

32 Church St. — Montclair