Growing up in Naples, Italy, Francesco Russo had a passion for food at an early age. He would watch as his family made meals, such as gnocchi, from scratch.
“My mother used to make the sauce, and my father made the gnocchi,” he said.
Russo and his family left Italy and moved to New York when he was 9 years old. At age 16 he started working in restaurants in Little Italy in Lower Manhattan. This ignited his 43-year-long career as a chef and afforded him opportunities such as cooking for President Ronald Reagan.
“I worked with a lot of great chefs,” Russo said. “That’s where I got a lot of my expertise and inspiration.”
While working as an executive chef in The Hamptons, Russo met Noti Krasniqi in 1999. The pair would work together for several years until Russo took a job in Florida. They would reunite in The Hamptons several years later. It was then Krasniqi would begin planting the idea of the two opening a restaurant together.
“He fell in love with the way I cooked,” Russo said. “After many years, we got together and decided to open a restaurant.”
In 2017, the duo opened Mio Nonno Trattoria in Flower Mound.
“Mio nonno” means “my grandfather,” and a trattoria is a small Italian restaurant where the chef comes up with specials every day. Russo comes up with weekly specials such as oven-roasted veal chop, Chilean sea bass and short rib ravioli.
The food, which is inspired from both northern and southern Italy, is made fresh daily. Some items, such as the margherita pizza, is baked in an authentic, wood-fire oven from Naples, Italy.
“My favorite dish is seafood. I love the ciopino,” Russo said.
The ciopino features salmon, shrimp, calamari, clams, mussels and anise seafood brodetto.
2450 Lakeside Parkway, Ste.100, Flower Mound
469-804-7472 • www.miononno.com
Hours: Tue.-Thu., Sun 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; closed Mon.