I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Mathew Mitnitsky, chef/owner of Nonni’s Italian Eatery in Concord where we discussed how Nonni’s came to be. While growing up in Brooklyn, NY, Chef Mat developed a passion for food at an early age. When asked by his Dad at age 13 what he thought he like to do for a living, Mat announced that he wanted to be a chef. Growing up in New York and attending a lot of grand family parties and weddings influenced Mat and he knew that someday he would be involved in the culinary business.
Mat’s first job was at a local grocery store where he continued to work through high school. While attending college at John Jay Criminal College of New York, Mat got a job at Balducci’s, a gourmet food store where he learned all about the art of presentation and the importance of quality. Later he was promoted to the deli department where he learned about specialty foods, meats, cheeses, truffles, fois gras, arborio rice and other delicacies. As Mat had the opportunity to talk to many local chefs who came into Balducci’s to buy special ingredients needed for their menus, his dream of becoming a chef grew.
Early into his third year of college, Mat announced in class that it would be his last day, and if anyone wanted his books they could have them. This was the turning point in his career, and he never looked back. He then decided to attend the Culinary Institute of American (CIA) in NY.
While attending the CIA, Mat served a six month apprenticeship at the 21 Club in Manhattan where he started at the bottom. He said that the most important thing he learned during that apprenticeship was to be a team player. It was difficult, but he loved it and learned things “The Old School Way”.
After graduating, Mat held many prestigious positions such as Executive Chef for the Metropolitan Tower Club, an exclusive Midtown private live-in hotel. There he cooked for the likes of Miles Davis, Martin Scorsese, and Dr. Ruth. He later went on to become the Executive Chef for the Hyatt International Casino and Hotel in Greece. One of Mat’s crowning achievements was helping to open a $60 million resort in the Grand Bahamas which consisted of 13 property restaurants and employed 300 chefs. This also included promoting the first “Bahamian Chef ”.
Shortly after Mat and his family returned to the U.S. 9/11 occurred. It was then that Mat decided he wanted to move to a place where he could safely raise his two daughters. After moving to New Hampshire Matt opened up a small B&B in Henniker. Shortly after that the first Nonni’s opened in Hillsboro, followed by a second location in Concord. Last year the newest Nonni’s opened in New London.
Through all of his experiences, Chef Mat has come to learn that what brings people together is the celebration of food and family – that’s what Nonni’s is all about! Mat brings a small piece of “Little Italy” to all of his restaurants, so that you’re able to dine on authentic Italian-American comfort food, “just like Mama used to make.”
- Interview by: Helen Ryba