Authentic: Nonni’s Corner Trattoria

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Born in Sicily, David Valenza’s grandparents came to Central Pennsylvania to start a new life. They ended up in a “Little Italy” of sorts in the East End of Clearfield. You would never know it, but it was this small Appalachian Mountain town where David’s mother Nonni was born. With her strong Italian accent, you could easily believe she was simply in the states for vacation. But surrounded by her parents, and others who once called Italy home, she soaked up the character and charm as though she grew up in Italy itself.


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Nonni herself (contributed)

Lucky for us, she eventually moved a couple hours west and now calls Grove City home. With her daughter, son and grandkids, the family started Nonni’s Corner Trattoria on the corner of College and Broad. Today, the restaurant represents a family’s heritage in the form of brick and mortar… and pasta.

Talking to David during the quiet after the lunch-hour rush, he clearly felt it a privilege to speak of his family’s history, which is displayed on the walls throughout the restaurant. He still keeps in touch with family on the Northern Coast of Sicily, in a place barely on the map, called Sangeorgio. Flash forward a couple generations, the family made their way to Grove City after David’s sister started working at the Intermediate Unit. Eventually Nonni moved to town, and the two convinced David that it was time to share their family’s culinary heritage, and that Grove City was the place to make it happen.


Nonni's Corner Trattoria owner, David Valenza
Nonni’s Corner Trattoria owner, David Valenza

For anyone who has had dinner at Nonni’s, one thing is clear, it’s authentic. The family’s roots can be seen in everything from the red sauce, to the entertainment. From a church pew at the front door, to a massive family heirloom cabinet, there are few places that feel so genuine. On a weekend night, dinner is often accompanied by an accordion player, soft jazz, or vocalists from the Dana School of Music. Some nights, you may even see Nonni herself perform a number. Piece by piece, everything comes together to create a uniquely European experience. David spoke quite a bit about European dining. While Americans often ask for their checks as soon as their meals come, Europeans see the dining experience as just that, an experience. Entire evenings in Venice can be spent at a cafe table listening to live music, conversing and more importantly, relaxing. While Grove City may never be “European” per say, this tiny corner restaurant does an impressive job of bringing the best of the cafe culture to Broad Street, and it seems to be catching on. Just drive through Olde Town after dark and Nonni’s is often one of the few places showing signs of life. David attributes much of the restaurant’s inspiration to his time spent in Italy, enjoying long multi-course meals, finished off with dessert and a cup of espresso. He compared it to the days of Dean Martin, when classy dining and entertainment was the norm.


Nonni's Corner Trattoria interior
Nonni’s Corner Trattoria interior

Beyond cuisine, the family has embraced the local art scene. David’s brother-in-law, Andrew Hazelton, has paintings throughout the dining area, and a beautiful mural on the building’s exterior. Statues from local sculptor Sarah Hempel Irani, along with pieces from other local artists, often fill the space. Seeing the growth and success of the arts in Olde Town, the family wanted to be part of it, and help nurture it. It’s clear that they see Olde Town as their home, and they’re making great efforts to not just bring new patrons to Nonni’s but to all of downtown. Advertising and shout outs in Pittsburgh Magazine have helped bring in Pittsburghers who may never have otherwise come to Olde Town. They’re no stopping there. An “obsession” of David’s is to start convincing more of the 6.5 million shoppers a year at Grove City Premium Outlets to make their way into town. He’s worked with the area hotels and staff to make sure visitors know about Olde Town, and hopes to someday have bus tours that include both the outlets and downtown shopping district.

Long term, David looks to keep improving on the restaurant’s cafe culture. Someday customers will enjoy french doors throughout that would make it a true indoor/outdoor experience during the summer months. Nonni’s also continues to expand their catering. Wedding, corporate and personal events for a small group or hundreds has kept the family busy as of late.

Now several years in, Nonni’s Corner Trattoria has made a name for itself. Good food, great atmosphere, and amazing people make it an authentic experience that you shouldn’t pass up.

*for information on catering and more, go to www.nonniscorner.com

QandA logo

with David Valenza

Favorite meal at Nonni’s Corner Trattoria? Chicken Cacciatore.

Favorite meal that Nonni makes that isn’t on her menu? Leg of Lamb (sometimes on the menu). Clam sauce is my birthday dinner every year.

What is one thing that Grove City doesn’t have that you wish it did? Honestly, at my age I feel like it has everything I need. Bowling for entertainment, great coffee house, the movie theater and YMCA. Being content with what we have makes it that much more exciting when something new comes in. 

If we were going on a vacation to Italy, where would you recommend? You can’t ignore Rome. There’s so much history and culture that you should at least spend 48 hours there. Then head to Sicily. It’s simple, relaxing, colorful, and I’ve never had a bad meal there. If you ever get a chance, go at Christmas time. The temps may be in the 40’s but the traditions and ceremonies are incredible. 


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July at Nonni’s (contributed)

6 thoughts on “Authentic: Nonni’s Corner Trattoria

  1. David’s Grandfather and Grandmother were first cousins to my Grandfather who also came from Sicily. Nonni is actually a second generation restanteur as her father Phil had a restaurant in Clearfield’s East End for years and my Grandmother was the cook. When visiting I’d walk down the block, cut through their backyard to the back door of the kitchen where I’d see my Grandmother cooking and Uncle Phil would give me a fudgsicle. When Uncle Phil would bake his wonderful Italian bread, he’d make stops all through the East End, popping in through the back door, dropping off fresh loaves. As an adult I danced with Uncle Phil at David’s wedding. I love them all and wish I were closer to Grove City so I could eat at Nonni’s all the time. Do they serve fudgsicles for dessert?

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  2. The charm of Nonni’s Trattoria can only be captured by experience. This quaint venue has a European decor and authentic Italian cuisine! The family is wonderful! I highly recommend dining at Nonni’s when visiting Grove City.

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  3. Say hi to Nonni for me. I have the fondest memory of my Wednesday lunches with Jim Moore at Natolis. I always had the meatball sandwich on Phil’s homemade bread and a great fresh salad. At Christmas he always shared a glass of his homemade wine with us. Since moving away from Clearfield In 2001 I lost touch with many old friends and reading about your restaurant had brought me fond memories of years past. I worked with your grandfather Jack for a couple of years and spent many an afternoon with him and John at camp. I am here in Cincinnati souroundead by Paneras and fancy bakeries but have yet to find a loaf of bread that compares with Phil’s. Phil Natoli was a friend and a Clearfield icon and I hop you keep his memory alive with fine Italian cuisine. I hope you have his meatball recipe. Good luck and God bless you.

    John Anderson

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  4. Nonni’s is one of the best places to eat around! Very friendly atmosphere! Nonni’s Corner Trattoria was my very first job, and the best job I have ever had. This little Italian place is family oriented, and kid friendly also!
    5☆ rating!

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  5. Could this possibly be the old “Dad’s restaurant that was in that same vicinity in the 40’s and 50’s? My parents and I ate there every Friday night after my mother did her shopping and then we went the movies at the Guthrie. My HS class of 1955 is having out 60th HS reunion in August. My friends and I will definitely stop by and check you out.
    Suzanne Murphy

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