NELLA is – quite literally – a home away from home for Nella Grassano. And that is exactly how it feels. The restaurant’s very soul is rooted in the love of tradition and family.
Following a childhood spent cooking in her family’s Napoli-based restaurants and an apprenticeship in perfect pizza making, Nella became a pizzaiola – an expert in Neapolitan pizza. Nella left Napoli at the age of 27 to come to America and cook, bringing with her generations of her family’s beloved recipes.
Here, in Chicago with her husband Francesco, Nella celebrates the traditions of food and warm hospitality, with which she was raised.
NELLA is an Italian restaurant in every way. It’s not an American caricature of an Italian restaurant. NELLA is the real deal.
Creating an authentic Italian dining experience is our focus every day. We believe that our restaurant could stand up to any of the 15,000 pizzerias that call Napoli home in Italy. We do everything we can to ensure that the experience that we’re bringing to life is exactly as it would be if our address were on The Rettifilo instead of in Hyde Park.
We speak Italian. We talk to our guests about the richness of the Italian regions that our food celebrates. We talk about the integrity of our ingredients and the history of our recipes.
We use ingredients that have been imported straight from Napoli. For instance, we use San Marazano tomatoes that grew in the volcanic earth at the base of Mount Vesuvius. Our D.O.P. Mozzarella di Buffala is richer and creamier than anything found stateside. And, we make our dough by hand, every day, with 00 Flour. What’s more? We tweak the recipe exactly on a daily basis. Maybe a little more water….or a little extra flour…or a dash more salt…so that our dough bakes perfectly in the 1,000° wood-fired oven, no matter what the weather outside is doing.
Since the beginning of time, Italy has been known for many of the art and culture world’s most stylish contributions. Beauty and grace and high design are essential to Italian living and they are not overlooked at NELLA, either.
It is our intention to bring to life a restaurant that is bright and stylish, anchored by a centerpiece wood-fired oven, built with the mud of Monte Vesuvio. Our storefront is bathed in natural light that brings our warm wood fixtures to life. Pops of color give the room definition and our passion for authentic ingredients is front and center as we display our favorite pantry products with open storage throughout the space.
The result is an airy, modern restaurant that sets NELLA apart from traditional American-Italian restaurants.