Laura Norris’ great-grandparents were Italian immigrants, and she grew up visiting them and their favorite Bronx delis.
The experience turned her into a lifelong lover of Italian food. But as an adult she also dreamed of one day opening an Italian deli of her own.
In late 2013, after a longtime career in non-profits, she opened not a deli but a neighborhood Italian eatery, Cucina della Ragazza. The restaurant at 301 Westport Road is a cozy hangout with just eight tables and a small bar, a large fireplace, and a tin ceiling. Norris made the tables with her brother, Grant, and friends. It also has built a loyal following for its comfort food menu — items such as meatballs, lasagna, Italian sausage soup, eggplant Parmesan, and rigatoni with Bolognese ragu.
Now Norris is ready to expand. The lifelong midtown resident plans to relocate the 1,100-square-foot restaurant to a 2,900-square-foot spot at 4301 Main St., just about a half mile away. Nature’s Own Market had operated in the building but had to close, along with several businesses and offices, after an April 2017 fire. The building is under renovation. Nature’s Own is reopening in Westport.
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Norris, who is passionate about community development and architectural preservation, wanted a building with a history.
“It has really pretty terra cotta detailing, and Main street will provide a lot more visibility,” Norris said.
Cucina della Ragazza is scheduled to open at 4301 Main in late summer and will continue to operate at its current site until then. Norris is in negotiations to open a different concept in the Westport space.