When Matt Ruppert opened his restaurant in Atlanta, his Italian grandmother or “Noni” was his muse. She’s 92, sips a blended whiskey cocktail every evening and smokes long, skinny Capris. She lives in Maine, but she’s an icon at the Old Fourth Ward restaurant that honors her legacy.
“She’s this little old lady who still cooks to this day,” said Ruppert. “She’s feisty and opinionated, sometimes hard to be around. But she’s always the life of the party.”
Ruppert opened this trattoria on Edgewood Avenue in 2008 after working many years in Atlanta’s restaurant business. “I wanted my own place,” he said. “I’d been in the industry as a server and bartender, but I was tired of working for other people.”
He named his new restaurant “Noni’s” after his grandmother.
“She’s the matriarch,” said Ruppert. “She and her cooking inspired me, my mom and my aunts. She’s also good at throwing dinner parties.”
Noni’s offers Italian comfort food like fries tossed in garlic, parmesan and parsley, homemade noodles, and meatballs and mozzarella cheese made from scratch. His Noni taught him how to make fresh, flavorful meals, but starting a business was something he had to figure out on his own.
“I was inexperienced as a business owner,” he said. “The fact that I could come in the game and start something like this says something good about this city.”
His restaurant sits just blocks from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in the Sweet Auburn area of the city. Ruppert started the Old Fourth Ward Business Association to help other entrepreneurs who want to open businesses on Edgewood Avenue.
“This is a very diverse and energetic place,” he said. “We get imaginative, creative people on this street who want to be here.”
And when they eat at Noni’s, they can indulge in nostalgia, reflecting on memories created around the dinner table with their own nonis.