PLATTSBURGH – With the support of the family behind her, Lisa MacDonald followed her dreams and opened the doors to her very own Italian restaurant, NonnaLisa’s, at the end of March.
Her sisters Jennen Sawyer, Rachel Sawyer, and Greta Sawyer have been working in the restaurant since opening, and while MacDonald serves as chef and owner, her sisters help prepare the food and help run the restaurant.
MacDonald, a former nurse, said their mother was an inspiration to NonnaLisa.
“We each had our own professional backgrounds, and then my mother passed away recently, so we went back a bit and weren’t sure what to do with ourselves, so we decided to open this one up,” she said.
Previous iron site
Located at 20 Plattsburgh Plaza, NonnaLisa Restaurant now occupies the space where Irons Restaurant used to be.
MacDonald said a few local restaurants started here before they moved to larger spaces.
“My mother, in fact, over the years, she said, has taken me to this particular place three times and wanted me to open an Italian restaurant.”
“It’s strange that it got open when it happened… and everything fell into place nicely.”
Since acquiring the space, McDonald’s has put her own style into the restaurant by painting the walls and adding an Italian flair to everything.
If the business continues to function well, it will continue to make renovations.
“We hope to expand to the other side … and apply for a liquor license, so we can get some wine,” she said.
“We’re going to scale the dining, make it more romantic, make it more Italian, that’s the plan. A very small and intimate Italian wine and brew (bar)…that’s the plan for now.”
NonnaLisa’s current menu features regular Italian pasta dishes like bread ziti, lasagna, chicken Parmesan, fettuccine alfredo, spaghetti, and meatballs, but salads, sandwiches, Italian coffee, and even homemade desserts like Italian icing, and cannoli with cannoli dip are also offered.
“There are two sandwiches here that no one has heard of just to die for,” MacDonald said, referring to the potato and cheese sandwich, which consists of French fries and American cheese melted in Italian bread, in particular.
“Our Cannoli Sauce: Pure Cheese, Real Cheese.”
Customers are also encouraged to inquire about weekly specials, which have included eggplant Parmesan and, most recently, fried pizza.
Every dish at NonnaLisa is an old recipe she learned from her growing mother, MacDonald said, and all the food is made with fresh, locally purchased ingredients.
“We grate our own cheese, grind the meat ourselves, and chop our own meat, using just a few simple ingredients,” she said.
“This is old school cooking. We’ve been cooking this way for 50 years…that’s what we’re really selling.”
“A local couple came from Rome and said this is the same food as there. I felt like they were back in Italy.”
Eating out and eating out
Customers have the option to dine in, take out or order for delivery through DoorDash and UberEats.
NonnaLisa’s is open Wednesday through Saturday with varying hours.
Currently, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, business hours are from 11am to 7pm on Fridays, hours are from 11am to 9pm, and on Saturdays, hours are from 2pm to 9pm
MacDonald said the hours, as well as the menu, are subject to change in the future as they continue to figure things out.
How is it at home
One thing you know for sure, is that her “job” doesn’t sound like a job.
“That’s exactly what it is at home: the exact same environment, the same design, it’s just a home. Because we’re family owned and family run, the family is here all the time,” MacDonald said.
“It doesn’t feel like work, because we do it at home. I’ll cook at home.
“I just made a bigger pot.”