Chow, Baby only lasted two days on the P90X workout program. I’m insane enough without feeling that particular burn. I’ve Tae Bo’d, boot-camped, Pilateed, and even Prancersized. A small herd of workout machines is collecting dust in my garage. This time, I broke down and hired a personal trainer. The problem is, the twentysomething meathead doesn’t approve of the eating habits I’ve developed thanks to my line of work. If it were up to him, I’d eat nothing but tofu and spinach. “Do you want to end up riding a Rascal scooter before your 50th birthday?” he mocked.

He’s making me keep a food journal, which indeed is having its desired effect of nudging me toward better dietary choices. I felt very healthy, for instance, after eating at Nonna Tata (1400 W. Magnolia Ave.) the other day. The menu of the Near Southside Italian gem isn’t “health food” per se, but it’s not unhealthy either. The place makes everything in-house, using fresh ingredients. Maybe the kitchen is a little liberal with the cheese. That’s still a great source of calcium, right?

My favorite thing about the place is that it’s molto autentico. So if you’re expecting gobs of sauce, endless breadsticks, or your server to write his or her name upside down on your paper tablecloth in crayon, this is not the place for you.


On a recent visit, my guest and I arrived during the height of the lunch rush, which for Nonna Tata means that six of the seven tables were full — quite a crowd for a dining room the size of an Olive Garden bathroom. The seating consists of tall stools, and just staying balanced on them is kind of an ab workout.

I started with a cup of the perfectly seasoned lenticchie soup ($3 with entrée). My trainer would have given me a slow clap on this one, thanks to its lentils, carrots, and onions. However, he’d have made me do an extra five minutes on the elliptical because it was topped with a healthy dose of Parmesan cheese. I’ll just omit that last detail in my food diary.

The veins in my trainer’s neck would have burst if he knew I’d had the pollo alla Milanese ($12.50) for my entrée. In terms of calories, I might as well have just put my mouth under the soft-serve ice cream spigot. In terms of enjoyment though — mwaah! The heavenly breading on the thin piece of fork-tender chicken was made of bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese, and more of the latter coats the chicken. Beneath the chicken was penne pasta; on top of it, spicy arrabiata sauce and a salty, buttery piece of rosemary focaccia bread. I’m going to have to go to the Big Lie technique for this one in the food journal.

On second thought, maybe I will just write, “I went to Nonna Tata because it makes me happy.” Then I’ll describe the food, and my trainer will cry, and I’ll cry, and we’ll go have some soft-serve. Because, you know, tomorrow is another (tofu) day.

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