At 15 years old, Juan Garcia moved with his family from El Obraje in Zacatecas, Mexico, to the U.S. and took his first job as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant. Today, with 26 years of self-taught experience in the kitchen under his belt, he is the owner of his own Italian restaurant, Nona’s Italian Grill.
Nona’s Italian Grill first opened on Alma Street in Tomball in 2010. After eight years, the restaurant relocated to College Park Drive in The Woodlands on Feb. 9.
“Tomball was a good location, but we always wanted to move to The Woodlands,” Garcia said.
The restaurant offers a spread of Northern Italian cuisine featuring classic pasta dishes, such as spaghetti and meatballs, and lasagna, as well as lamb, chicken, beef and seafood dishes. For lighter fare, the eatery also offers a variety of soups and salads.
Prior to opening Nona’s, Garcia and his brother opened their first restaurant on FM 1960 in 1992. After nearly three decades, Garcia said he still regularly serves some of the same patrons who dined at his first venture.
“A lot of our customers from Tomball still come here regularly, and I even have some of the same customers from the early ’90s,” Garcia said.
The restaurant made some changes to its menu upon relocating, Garcia said, and it continues to add new items on a regular basis.
“Every day we’re doing something new,” he said. “Right now I’m doing a tableside spinach salad, a flambé and bananas foster, which aren’t on the menu, so we’re always looking for something new.”
Garcia said one of the eatery’s most popular options is the Italian French Connection, which combines foodie favorites from both cultures such as filet mignon, ravioli and shrimp.
To pair with the authentically-crafted Northern Italian dishes, Nona’s also offers 14 varieties of sparkling, white, rose and red wines by the glass or bottle as well as another 47 wines by the bottle. The eatery also features a full bar with handcrafted cocktails such as Long Island Iced Tea, Cosmopolitan, mojito and a house martini.
Garcia said one of the most important qualities Nona’s possesses is its ambience.
“I wanted to do something different—I wanted Nona’s to be an old-style Italian restaurant,” Garcia said. “I didn’t want to be the same as all of the other new restaurants. We’re very old-fashioned from our wait staff to our table settings.”
With walls adorned by framed artworks, each candlelit table at Nona’s is set with red and black tablecloths paired with black cloth napkins and wine glasses.
Further enhancing the restaurant’s atmosphere, Nona’s also has a live pianist every Friday and Saturday beginning at 6 p.m.
“We are very much a family restaurant,” Garcia said. “My brother cooks with me—my wife, daughters and son all work here and even my nieces and nephews—they’ve all grown up together here.”
In addition to dining in, Nona’s can also be booked for private events and offers catering services, to-go ordering and delivery options. Reservations can also be made by phone or online through Open Table.
In the future, Garcia said he hopes to open a second location of Nona’s Italian Grill. However, he has no specific location yet in mind.
In the meantime, Garcia said he and his family plan to continue catering to their new clientele in The Woodlands as well as seasoned patrons from decades past.
“People have told me that of all the Italian restaurants in The Woodlands, there isn’t anything like ours,” he said. “So I think people are really happy that we’re here, and The Woodlands community has really embraced us.”
Nona’s Italian Grill
3091 College Park Drive, Ste. 185, The Woodlands
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Closed Sundays