Path Home Shows 2008 Show Archive November 2008 Show 0846 Nonna's


One Oklahoma restaurant has taken using more locally grown food a step further in a groundbreaking process that starts in a greenhouse and ends up as part of a decorated dinner plate.

Nonna's Restaurant

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Nonna's Euro-American Ristorante and Bar

Show Dates

Show 0846: Nonna's

Air date: November 16, 2008



Rob:  Oklahoma restaurants are also using more locally grown food, but one Oklahoma restaurant has taken things a step further.  Oklahoma HORIZON’s Keith Smith is the newest addition to our staff and is here to tell us why more locally grown food just makes business sense.

Keith:  A chef at Nonna’s puts in an order months in advance before you go there to eat.  It’s part of a groundbreaking process that starts in a greenhouse and ends up as part of a decorated dinner plate.

Keith Smith:  A top spot from the ground up.

Avis Scaramucci:  The tomatoes are ours, both the red and the yellow.  The edible flowers are ours.  The sweet peppers, the sweet basil, and this is wheatgrass which we grow just in big sheets.

Keith:  A standard that restaurateur Avis Scaramucci wouldn’t have any other way.

Scaramucci:  I never put anything on a plate that’s not edible.

Keith:  Standout dishes, a colorful staple, what you want, when you want it, but just a little bit better.

Scaramucci:  What I love most is trying to do something exceptional, something just a bit different from what anyone else can do.

Keith:  A difference that’s night and day.  Twenty minutes away, Avis’s garden, where she grows much of her own produce.

Scaramucci:  I am the only restaurant that I’m aware of in the entire state that has a greenhouse, that grows specifically and only for the restaurant.

Keith:  Tons of tomatoes, lots and lots of lettuce, and plenty of precision.

Scaramucci:  What you’re seeing is plants that were planted back in August.

Keith:  Spread out over nearly an acre inside hydroponic greenhouses.

Scaramucci:  We’ve just planted these recently, so the water flows through this root system and re-circulates.

Keith:  Like people, some of the vegetables grow a little quicker, some grow a little larger, and after a lengthy selection process, tens of thousands of pounds worth will make it into Nonna’s kitchen this year.

Scaramucci:  I grow eleven varieties of lettuce just to make a salad mix.  We grow the cherry tomatoes, which I don’t show on this plate.  We grow the reds and the yellows.  We make all of our sauces, anything that has to do with tomatoes, we make it fresh in the kitchen.

Keith:  What are the real advantages of growing your own food for your restaurant?

Scaramucci:  Well, there’s lots of advantages.  And the most important is, that you know exactly what goes into that product.  I mean I check it every week.  It’s my own team of employees that makes that happen.  And, we are very careful with what we grow.

Keith:  Where do you see this going from here across Oklahoma?

Scaramucci:  What I see, more of in this area, certainly in this state, is more and more chefs finding resources for fresh product.  And I think that trend will continue, because as we have more scares with food, you know, it wasn’t too long ago that there was a lettuce scare, and I was really just about one of the few restaurants in town that could continue to comfortably serve lettuce, because it’s my own.

Keith:  All of the planning that goes into the planting means freshness is always on the menu.

Scaramucci:  See, it still has a little root system on it.  Now when you go to a grocery store, fresh, they’ll say fresh lettuce or fresh tomatoes, fresh could be three weeks, maybe a little more, from the time it’s actually harvested until it gets on your plate.  When I say fresh, this was brought in this morning.  I love the people.  I love going around to the tables and visiting with a customer.  You know, there’s nothing better than just that one-on-one, how they’re doing and if they’re enjoying themselves.  It’s just fun to still have something that you so love; and at the end of the day, each day, you can say, you know I’ve really accomplished this.

Keith:  It’s a growing concept of shopping where you eat.  A dining experience that you may one day see duplicated in other parts of the state.

Rob:  Now, we can definitely see the difference in the food, but the big question here is; could you taste it?

Keith:  You really can.  They had an idea, and as you see there, it really blossomed.

Rob:  Well, nice story; welcome aboard.

Keith:  Glad to be here.