Dining Out

Nanas Rockwood

Neighborhood Dining with Effortless Hospitality

By: Amber Chase
interior at Nanas
Images courtesy of Lissa Gotwals and D.L. Anderson

At a place named Nanas, it’s easy to envision grits soaking in butter, a bubbly, baked casserole, and those nostalgic red-and-white plastic tablecloths. Perhaps this is why Nanas Rockwood is Durham’s best-kept dining secret. The sentiment behind Nanas draws from the concept of nanas, nonnas, and grandmas everywhere, invoking feelings of nurturing intentionality, long-standing culinary tradition, and effortless hospitality. Pulling from the Spanish, Italian, and French influences, menu favorites include scallop milanese, yellowfin tuna carpaccio, oxtail mezzaluna, and ricotta gnudi. 

Roasted Lil Farm Honey Nut Squash at Nanas

Nanas boasts impressive longevity with more than 30 years as part of the Durham community. Spearheaded by chef Matt Kelly, chef-partner Nate Garyantes, and partners at MK Hospitality and Sundholm Studio, Nanas was reimagined in 2023 to emphasize their modern approach to a neighborhood dining while maintaining the intangible warmth of the original concept. The space is lined with deep emerald tile accented with rich jewel-toned oranges, blues, and purples. Lights are kept dim, illuminating crisp white tablecloths surrounded by leather booths. Nanas is segmented into a few different “rooms,” a small dining space leading to the larger dining room, and their sleek mid-mod bar room. The stylish dining space might not feel akin to Grandma’s living room, but the ambience is undeniably familiar with subtle touches like sheer white curtains lining the windows, a box of collectibles in the restroom, and plaid carpeting throughout the restaurant. 

While the menu may shift to accommodate the season’s finest, there are some must-try dishes that shouldn’t be overlooked. Begin your evening toasting a classic martini, served impressively cold, with your choice of olives or a twist. In addition to playful cocktail options, choose from an extensive selection of wines by the glass or bottle. As any good nonna would, Nanas makes all pastas in-house and are essential to the experience. Selections like rye tagliatelle with duck ragout or savory pumpkin sachetti make for a memorable date night. And whether you’re pacing yourself through a few courses or ordering at the bar, it is paramount that you save space for dessert. Pair Nanas’ hot chocolate souffle or any of their house ice creams with a small aperitif to close out your evening. 

The bar at Nanas

about this restaurant

  • Chef

    Matt Kelly and Nate Garyantes

  • Address

    2514 University Drive
    Durham, North Carolina

    • Bistros & Cafes

    • Fine Dining

    • French

    • Spanish & Portuguese

    • Italian

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