By Kirstan Knowlton
GORHAM — Looking to experience Italian cooking like grandma used to make? There’s a new restaurant in town serving up traditional Italian dishes, and according to the latest reviews, you won’t be disappointed.
Nonna’s Kitchen, on Exchange Street in Gorham, might have just opened its doors in April, but owners Mike and Ellen Conley already feel right at home in the North Country.
The dynamic duo used to run two businesses in Massachusetts, one that offered breakfast and lunch and another that focused on the sweeter side, with ice cream and confections, but all that changed when a visit to the Gorham area left them wanting more.
Initially, the Conleys had planned to retire upon their arrival, but Mike quickly found out that it wasn’t easy to just slow down.
“After going 100 miles an hour, I couldn’t just step on the brakes,” he said.
Thinking that they might not be ready to fully retire just yet, Mike and Ellen decided to look at some potential spaces.
Walking around downtown Gorham, the Conleys came across the empty space, which some people will remember as the Moonbeam restaurant. Originally thinking it might be too small, the Conley’s decided to arrange for a walkthrough of the space just to make sure.
To their surprise, the space was just what they needed, and with a little restructuring of the kitchen their new restaurant would be ready to go.
“It’s a great opportunity, and we decided to do it,” Mike said.
The inspiration for their new restaurant came from Ellen’s mother, who they refer to as Nonna. Ellen grew up in a large Italian family where food was always an important element.
As a team, the pair runs the restaurant together with Mike mostly keeping to the kitchen, while Ellen tends to the front. Mike explained that their approach to food is simple and traditional with a focus on serving customers fresh ingredients.
Some of their signature menu items include polenta with fresh pork, risotto with creamy Parmesan and favorites like spaghetti and Alfredo. They also carry a selection of beer, wine cordials and single malt. All of their pasta is made fresh and cooked to order.
Since opening, the Conleys say that they are overwhelmed by the support that they have received. Even Ellen’s mother Nonna, who is 88 years old, traveled to be there opening night.
“The community has been very supportive and welcoming,” said Mike.
Mike and Ellen are both looking forward to getting to know people in the area more as they continue to grow their business in the North Country.
“We are looking to write the last chapter here,” said Mike.
Nonna’s Kitchen is open Wednesday through Sunday 4 to 9 p.m., and is located at 19 Exchange St., in Gorham. For more information call (603) 915-9203 or find them on Facebook.