Neil is happy to prove that Nonna’s isn’t just about great food
WHEN you think of Nonna’s, it’s likely that you, like the rest of us, think great Italian food first and foremost – not bar. But, Nonna’s is home to one of West Chester’s most talented bartenders. After receiving a nomination from Nonna’s owner Marissa Powell and from our own “Food Safari” writer Jeremy Malanka, we knew it was time to make him our bartender of the month.
Hometown: West Chester
Born and raised? Uh, yeah, born and raised here in West Chester.
Have you ever left? I went out to school at Slippery Rock for a year to play baseball, but then I transferred back to West Chester University the following year. I graduated from there with a degree in marketing.
How did you get into bartending? I was working in a restaurant through college, and I kinda just fell into bartending. I could work fewer hours, make more money and finish with school sooner.
Where were you working? I was out at Maddie’s Restaurant in Frazer or Malvern, whatever that is.
Down off of Route 30? Yeah, that one.
That’s closed now, right? Is that why you came here? No. I worked there from ’96 to 2007 and they ended up closing in 2009. Then I spent about a year out at Big Easy in Paoli, then I came here and have never left.
Marissa says you’re her best bartender. Does that surprise you? I guess not. I mean, when other bartenders are coming up to you and asking you to make their drinks for them, saying, “Here, you make this better than I do,” I guess that is an indicator.
What is it, in your eyes, that makes you a good bartender? Ugh. Umm. Hmm… Experience? Like, good drink knowledge? I have 15 years experience bartending, and I do it because I have a love for the job – some people just do it for the money.
Since Nonna’s is primarily a restaurant, what percentage of patrons just come for the food? I’m not sure. I would guess it was something like 60%. Maybe 65. On the other hand, we do have a pretty significant crowd of happy hour regulars.
What does the happy hour crowd drink here? Our top seller is wine. Period. Then martinis and an occassional beer.
How about your pre-dinner drinkers. What are they usually having? I would say that crowd is split a little more 50-50 between the wine and the cocktails.
How many wines to you have by the bottle? We always have around 75 wines available by the bottle.
Do people frequently eat at the bar? Yeah. I guess. It’s not uncommon for people to order full meals while they sit here, but we serve a lot of food to the happy hour crowd because it is half off appetizers?
If you’re not here, where are you drinking? I would say you could find me at Barnaby’s, Side Bar or over at Pietro’s Prime.