For Gerald Addison, there is no such thing as the perfect slice of pizza.
The Michelin-starred chef, who has mastered flame grilling at Maydan and Caribbean cuisine at Bammy’s, turns his attention to pizza with the opening of Grazie Nonna in downtown’s sleek new Midtown Center complex (1100 15th Street NW). From Friday 23 September, dinner will be served daily (5pm to 11pm) with lunch coming soon.
After trying a wide variety of regional pizzas along the East Coast — from New Haven to the Bronx and Brooklyn to South Jersey and Philadelphia — Addison struggled to land on an all-time favorite.
“I’ve been to so many places that just blew me away,” says Addison, who came to the realization that “the perfect slice of pizza may not exist, but you can work every day to achieve an even better pizza.” “
Moving shotgun on Addison’s adventurous journey was Casey Patten, known for hurling Philadelphia-style hoagies in the Grace Grace of the Wharf. Together they sampled cakes at more than 50 different restaurants before testing pizzas in their own kitchen. They debuted the product at the Declaration earlier this year as part of a World Central Kitchen fundraiser for Ukraine.
For Patten, the chance to open a pizzeria is a dream come true, fueled by his memories of his nonna and their many Sunday lunches. Head inside the restaurant and look up to see some of Patten’s childhood photos with his Italian grandmother, Nancy Russoniello, and other family members that inspired Grazie Nonna.
“I remember cooking with my nonna in her basement kitchen in North Jersey all day when I was a kid,” he says. “There she would spend hours preparing her Sunday sauce. I think a lot of people have memories like that of a family member who put love and care into cooking.”
Each made-to-order cake, served straight from a deck oven, begins with a theatrical, hand-tossed batter. The finished product is a thinner cake that’s somewhat reminiscent of New York-style pizza, with a crispy and airy crust.
“With pizza, it’s all about the balance and ratio of dough to sauce and toppings,” says Patten. “It’s batter-sauce-cheese and the balance has to be just right to make a quality cake.”
Pizzas like the Drunken Love use a blend of aged and fresh mozzarella, provolone, pecorino cheese, basil, and pepperoni cups from Ohio’s Ezzo Sausage Co., topped off with a swirl of vodka sauce.
Another hopeful hitmaker, the Green Goddess, calls for mozzarella, provolone, collards, cream, Calabrian chilies, and pecorino cheese. It’s loaded with veggies that give the cake its signature green color.
“The more I make this pizza, the more I find it irresistible,” says Addison. “You can smell it when you walk in the door and. You can taste the difference even with our fresh ingredients.”
Along with a selection of hand-made pizzas, Grazie Nonna offers classic Italian-American fare from antipasti dishes like calamari, burrata, and arancini balls to hearty pasta bowls. Patten’s favorite is The South Philly – a playful nod to a roast pork sandwich with pork shoulder, broccoli rabe, cherry peppers and pecorino cheese.
Larger dishes include Chicken Vesuvio — a Chicago-style dish with crispy fingerlings, cippolini onions, and a dip in white wine sauce — and a whole branzino, which arrives boneless and braised in fennel, caper butter, and lemon.
Grazie Nonna is the second restaurant Patten and Addison have opened this year. In May, they debuted at Little Chicken, which shares the kitchen and is across the street from Grazie Nonna, with an entirely separate menu. (“None of these pizzas have chicken on them,” says Patten.)
While Little Chicken is a casual, walk-in experience, “we want [Grazie Nonna] to be a seated experience where you can linger and enjoy a nice Italian wine or cocktail.”
Wines include a selection of Italian reds and whites and sparkling Lambrusco. Cocktails include an elderflower spritz and Negronis, served one of three ways – classic, white, or a spagliato version with Cocchi Vermouth Di Torino, Cappelletti Bitter Orange, and sparkling rose.
The restaurant seats about 80 people, in addition to an outdoor bar geared towards the 9am-5pm downtown happy hour. A reservation link will go live shortly.
“We envision the outdoor area as a sort of pizza garden,” says Patten. “Pizza is a feast. It brings people together.”