Plated gnocchi, one of La Nonna’s star dishes

Image: Zach Mahone

When Campo de Fiori closed in April after two decades in Vail Village, locals and longtime visitors bemoaned the loss of a culinary landmark in a resort that’s not exactly celebrated for its deep-rooted authenticity (“It’s synonymous with the charm of the Village,” lamented one devotee after the restaurant’s sign-off on Facebook. “I’m beyond sad.”). Much of Campo’s charm and longevity derived from Executive Chef Simone Reatti, a native of Italy’s Dolomites who had worked his pasta-centric magic in the kitchen for 19 years, and General Manager Mira Hozzova, who started as a busser in 2002 and cultivated the restaurant’s boisterous front-of-house personality.

What no one knew at the time, however, was that Reatti and Hozzova had already tendered their resignations before Campo’s owners arrived at an impasse over the terms of a new lease and decided to walk away from the storied space. “The light wafting through the air, feels like memories of so many beautiful times,” the owners wrote in a wistful farewell on social media, with images of the rustically romantic, faux-painted, high-ceilinged dining room empty of chairs and tables. “Bye bye for now dear Campo Vail!” Both Reatti, 46, who grew up in a cooking family in the resort village of Cortina d’Ampezzo, and Hozzova, 40, who came to Vail as an exchange student from Slovakia, had long desired to run their own restaurants. For a while, it seemed that might happen with Campo, whose owners still oversee a sister restaurant in Aspen and had hinted they might like to partner with Reatti and Hozzova on a second Vail Valley location. But when those plans fizzled, the star employees separately decided to move on.

Reatti considered returning to Italy. Hozzova didn’t know what she wanted to do. Only after talking did they realize how much their goals aligned. So they teamed up and started looking for a place. As it happens, the space in which they’d built their reputations was up for grabs, and they were approached by the landlords, longtime Vail Valley restaurateurs Luc and Liz Meyer, friends of Betty and Gerald Ford who had founded the Left Bank, a must-dine destination for Francophiles since 1970. Seeing potential in Reatti and Hozzova to write the next chapter of their Meadow Drive investment, the Meyers offered the pair the lease and signed on as partners.  Together, the quartet orchestrated the ski season debut of La Nonna, one of the most promising  openings in the Village in years.

Luc and Liz Meyer with Mira Hozzova and Simone Reatti in La Nonna’s dining room, in the throes of construction at press time in mid-October.

Image: Zach Mahone

Not only did the Meyers spend a small fortune renovating the old Campo space and upgrading the kitchen with state-of-the-art equipment, but Reatti and Luc Meyer, 76—a native of Clermont-Ferrand, France, who has now opened 10 restaurants in the valley—spent months perfecting recipes in the Meyers’ home kitchen.

Sitting outside La Nonna with Hozzova this fall, Reatti explained the name—which means grandma in Italian—and what it represents. His own late nonna introduced him to cooking, he said, and was the pillar of his family. “When you grow up as a child, [who do you go to for] the best food, for love, or a nice tea with a cookie—for hospitality?” he asked, then paused. “Your grandma. So La Nonna is: you come in, you don’t have to dress up, you sit down and relax and have a beautiful dinner.”

Hozzova chuckled. “We had the name before we even had the place.”

Making pasta in the restaurant’s test kitchen

Image: Zach Mahone

Among the interior improvements, La Nonna features a redesigned and more spacious bar area, with a conscious effort—via carpet—to temper the cacophony that made it a challenge to have an intimate conversation in the old dining room. There’s a bigger window facing south toward the frontside of Vail Mountain, and exposed wooden beams now support the high ceilings, making the church-like space feel more like a cathedral. But Reatti is most excited about the investments that have been made in his kitchen, which includes a “space shuttle of a refrigerator,” a $22,000 extruder to make five kinds of pasta in-house, and the oven of his dreams, where he plans to resurrect many of the dishes that made Campo famous, including osso buco, veal shank, lamb shank, lamb chop, and scaloppini. “I have the best equipment that a chef could dream of,” Reatti said.

But he also has something that perhaps will figure more in the future of this new venture: he already has a past here, anchored in authenticity. “I don’t want to be a famous chef, but I grew up eating spaghetti every day,” Reatti said. “I know what spaghetti needs to taste like.” Prices will remain the same, as will much of the staff.

“It still will be lively,” Hozzova said. “We’re not pretentious. The soul is still there.”

There’s an old soul, but a new heart beating, in La Nonna’s kitchen.


LA NONNA RISTORANTE

100 E Meadow Dr, #24
Vail Village; lanonnavail.com

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