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Delicious, unpretentious, affordable Italian food draws a big, enthusiastic crowd. Well, obviously
Nano’s good-time vibe almost rubs off on you as you walk past, and, if the sun is shining and you’re even a little bit late for lunch, you’ll probably have to keep walking. Tables fill up pronto, especially under the deep, yellow-striped awning outside on the terrace.
Maybe we’re just a tick ahead of lunch hour… the office bods are rolling up their sleeves to elbow for an outside seat on Ebenezer Place, the subtle hub on the south side of mainstream Rundle Street. Couples, business-like boomers, tattooed caffeine-fiends, mums with prams, photographers, cycle couriers and students on the run from the books make up the numbers. It’s come-one, come-all.
Nano’s hospitality recipe is simple: unpretentious, very affordable Italian café fare, powerful coffee and quick-fire service. Don’t expect anything too elaborate on the food front. Just basics, like sizeable pizza squares (ham and pineapple, spinach and red chilli) and toasted focaccia ‘sticks’ (try the tuna, spring onion, capsicum and rocket; or the lauded eggplant Nano stick). Big, no-frills breakfasts (poached eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes on thick-cut white toast) are served until late afternoon. The vongole (cockles) pasta is the ever-steady signature dish… and even the fresh orange juice is enough to bring people back.
Inside, beyond the window-wall shopfront, at one end of the room there’s a long communal table scattered with street press, and at least 20 little tables at the other. Down the middle is a snaky queue to a yolk-yellow counter where you place your order (scan the broad blackboard menu while you wait).
There seems to be at least a dozen staff, all a-tizz with tasks: shuffling plates and trays, and generating plumes of espresso steam. Bentwood chairs clatter on the polished concrete floor and conversations run at fevered volume.
Aside from the sugar-dusted Danishes, there’s not much on the menu here that you couldn’t whip up yourself at home. But culinary sophistry isn’t why Nano works. Here’s why: because it’s a modern building, but there’s something almost nostalgic about it. Because the prices are from 2002. Because it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. Because if you’re hungry, you need to eat. Because it’s not about who sees you, but who you’re seeing.