Exclusive: Noni’s to close on Edgewood Avenue this month after a 15-year run

Noni's serves a menu of Italian dishes inspired by owner Matt Ruppert's Sicilian grandmother. / Courtesy of Noni's

Credit: Courtesy of Noni's

Credit: Courtesy of Noni's

Noni's serves a menu of Italian dishes inspired by owner Matt Ruppert's Sicilian grandmother. / Courtesy of Noni's

Noni’s Neighborhood Trattoria, one of the pioneers of Edgewood Avenue’s famed nightlife scene, is closing its doors at the end of October.

Matt Ruppert opened Noni’s at 357 Edgewood Ave. in the Sweet Auburn section of the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood in 2008 when there was very little on the stretch of street by way of bars or restaurants. He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it was simply the right time to say goodbye.

“We’re so grateful and happy for what we’ve been able to accomplish with Noni’s for all the time that it’s been going, and we’re just ready to call it quits.”

The restaurant will be open nightly at 5 p.m. for dinner, and will continue to host events throughout the month, culminating in a farewell Halloween party on Oct. 28.

The decision to close was made, in large part, because of Ruppert’s transatlantic status. He and his husband moved to Amsterdam in 2018 and opened a restaurant and bar there in 2019 called Parakeet. Ruppert has been bouncing back and forth between the two countries, but he’s looking forward to having a more consistent presence in his adopted hometown.

Matt Ruppert (center) in front of Noni's with his parents in 2018. / Courtesy of Noni's

Credit: Courtesy of Noni's

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Credit: Courtesy of Noni's

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were also a factor. While the restaurant “was crushing it” with its delivery service, Ruppert said it was a challenge to get guests to come back in person.

“We’d rather go out with a bang than peter out slowly,” he said.

But Noni’s, he said, “will always be my baby.” An homage to his Sicilian grandmother, Rosalie “Noni” Spinozzo, Noni’s “was always meant to be a humble place to get a good value big meal and a stiff drink. It ended up morphing into this dance mecca for a couple of years, and in recent days, it’s become a queer haven and taken on its own flavor since I’ve been gone.”

Indeed, by day, Noni’s — whose tagline is “Noni loves you” — is a traditional Italian restaurant and deli serving dishes inspired by Noni’s home cooking including enormous sandwiches, homemade pasta, homemade sauces, hand-cut fries tossed with garlic and herbs, homemade mozzarella and hand-stuffed grape leaves.

The beverage program includes an all-Italian wine list, a craft cocktail program and a rotating list of beers.

Noni's became as well known for its nightlife scene as its food and drinks. / Courtesy of Noni's

Credit: Courtesy of Noni's

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Credit: Courtesy of Noni's

At night, Noni’s hosts open mics, comedy and drag shows and LGBTQ-themed dance parties. Its contribution to the nightlife scene on Edgewood will be an enduring part of its legacy.

Ruppert grew up in Alpharetta and started out working at other restaurants around metro Atlanta. When he decided he wanted to strike out on his own, his options were limited, he said.

“Nobody was giving the time of day to someone like me,” Ruppert said. “I was 27 and had no previous experience owning a restaurant. I was being outbid in every neighborhood, and drove down Edgewood and saw the ‘for rent’ sign. I think I was the first one to come along who had the vision and maybe the guts to (take on a building like that). It was a good spot for someone like me who was just getting started.”

Though Edgewood is a “storied and historic street and we were by no means the start of it,” Ruppert said, it was in a bit of a lull when he took over the crumbling brick building, formerly a veterinary clinic, in 2008. Other than the still-open Foxx Original Jamaican Restaurant, food and beverage options on the strip were relatively limited.

Enormous sandwiches are a popular item at the traditional Italian restaurant and deli. / Courtesy of Noni's

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In the years following Noni’s opening and success, several popular concepts debuted including Sister Louisa’s Church of the Ping-Pong Emporium, which expanded into the neighboring former Corner Tavern space a couple years ago; and the now-closed Sound Table, Pizzeria Vesuvius, Bone Lick Southern Kitchen and Mother. Over the past few years, concepts like Esco Seafood, Our Bar ATL, Slutty Vegan, Edgewood Pizza, Fins & Feathers and Handlebar have found success on the diverse and historic corridor.

Along with the owners of Church, Sound Table and Corner Tavern, Ruppert was instrumental in starting the Old Fourth Ward Business Association, which advocates for businesses in the neighborhood.

Ruppert, who still owns the building that Noni’s is housed in, hopes that someone will take it over and “do Sweet Auburn proud,” either by keeping Noni’s open or creating a new food and beverage concept that fits in with the nightlife mix on Edgewood Avenue. He also hopes whoever leases the space will retain the staff, though he plans to assist employees financially and with finding new jobs.

“I have no doubt that whatever happens to Edgewood, however it evolves, it’s going to be great,” he said. “It’s never going to be boring. It’s going to always be someplace you should pay attention to because it’s going to be the place where creative, fun, wild stuff is happening.”

And overall, he’s proud that Noni’s has played a part in creating the vibe that’s essential to the fabric of Edgewood Avenue and Atlanta as a whole.

“We’re just so grateful to everybody that’s been a part of this,” he said. “I’m most proud of what we were able to accomplish, against all odds. We were young and either really dumb or really brave. We never took the easy way out, we kept plugging away, and we are so proud of how long we kept the dream alive.”

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