Will Artley has a new gig.
The former Pizzeria Orso and BLT Steak chef, who most recently worked at Neyla in Reston, is the new executive chef at Nonna's Kitchen. The restaurant is the tasting menu-centric spot above Alphonse in D.C.
The restaurant has just 24 seats, but that's enough to keep Artley busy, courtesy of the multi-course, frequently changing tasting menu that the restaurant offers. The chef has the chance to really highlight the different regions of Italy through his cuisine, and also experiment with some of his own favorite techniques, such as raw cooking.
"I'm actually doing my dream," said Artley. "It's a small, intimate kitchen that's open, with state-of-the-art equipment." He doesn't have to cook for the masses, either. "If you talk to anybody who's frequented my restaurants, [they say] 'You need a small restaurant,' not necessarily to play, but to have a vision and go with it." At Nonna's, he gets to work with an owner, Aaron McGovern, "who believes in my talent and allows me to be creative."
Artley, who has been playing a guessing game with his many Facebook followers about his new gig, is baking his own breads and making his own gelatos at Nonna's. Recent dishes include a prosciutto amuse with popcorn and a parmesan mousse, as well as a Concord grape dish with spicy Italian chiles, rosemary and crudo. He's also making his own pickles, which he serves with whipped fat and that homemade bread. Expect a Meatless Monday meal in the future, too, and possibly some raw cooking pop-ups. He's brought along cooks he's worked with before, including chef Tran Do.
Due to the small scale of the restaurant, Artley is able to again cultivate relationships with local farmers, who can easily work with him because they don't need to provide a large amount of product. He's also growing his own herbs.
And don't rule out pizza entirely. While Artley is only responsible for the upstairs restaurant, he can't stop himself from playing around with the restaurant's oven downstairs. "I have a pizza oven within ten feet of me; I have to bake pizzas once in awhile."