It’s been a wild ride on Edgewood Avenue for Noni’s, which concludes at the end of October, when the gritty little Italian restaurant and bar known for its pasta and hoagies, strong cocktails, and late-night dance parties closes its doors for the final time in the Old Fourth Ward.
The story behind Noni’s began in 2008 after owner Matt Ruppert lost his job as a server. He decided to take a chance on opening his own restaurant serving food he’d been making most of his life, thanks to his family.
“I was 27 and a nervous kid who was just trying to figure out what he was doing next. I was driving down Edgewood one day to see what was for lease around town and there was a sign outside 357 Edgewood Avenue,” Ruppert says. “I risked everything on a space nobody wanted. It had been abandoned for ten years.”
Ruppert named the restaurant for the family matriarch, Rosalie Spinozzo. He called her Noni because he couldn’t pronounce “Nonna” (Italian for grandmother) properly as a child. Noni was the family’s “fierce feisty queen” who believed in big meals, big drinks, and big parties, he says. This became the backbone of the service at Noni’s, drawing a cross-generational crowd, starting with lunch and dinner and ending with raucous dance parties late at night, which sometimes spilled onto the sidewalk.
Over the last 15 years, Noni’s became a community center of sorts, hosting drag shows, weddings, baby showers, political debates, and election night watch parties. It’s been a safe haven for the city’s queer and trans communities. Despite the closure later this month, Noni’s is still hosting several events during Atlanta Pride on October 14 and October 15. But the big party takes place Saturday, October 28, with a Halloween blowout.
The closure is bittersweet for Ruppert. Noni’s is where he met his husband, Brooks, and where the pair hatched their plan to move to Amsterdam in 2018 and open a bar together called Parakeet. The staff at Noni’s have become like family. Staff member Ryan Buchanan has been with the restaurant for 13 years, arriving as a teenager at age 18 and working his way up to general manager. Regulars have become extended family, too, who also got to know the unofficial mascot, Lucy, before she moved to Amsterdam. The dog often lounged near the bar. A portrait of Lucy now hangs behind the bar at Noni’s.
Closing Noni’s simply came down to pure exhaustion, Ruppert says, from traveling back and forth between Amsterdam and Atlanta and fighting an uphill battle against the continuing financial impacts of the pandemic on the Edgewood Avenue restaurant and bar.
Ruppert intends to stick around through mid-November to help shepherd his employees into new jobs. He’s hoping, however, that someone will buy the business and building from him, retain the staff, and continue operating Noni’s on Edgewood.
“We always took the food and drinks here seriously, even back in the day when we didn’t know a whole hell of a lot compared to other restaurant owners in Atlanta,” he says. “The end goal was always wanting to hear laughter in the restaurant and people having a good time. We’ve definitely achieved that.”
Got a fun memory to share or funny story about your time at Noni’s? Send that to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for an upcoming story.
Lunch service discontinued. Open nightly for dinner at 5 p.m. Full calendar of weekly events continues through October 28.
357 Edgewood Avenue, Atlanta. nonisdeli.com.