Little Donna’s offers the comfort of a neighborhood joint for foodies with high expectations. It is also a restaurant steeped in history and family tradition. Located at the former site of Henniger’s Tavern in Upper Fells, Chef Robbie Tutlewski christened it “Little Donna’s” after his Yugoslavian grandmother, who was reportedly short in stature but looms large in culinary influence.
The menu features items inspired by family recipes and includes bar snacks and small plates, tavern pies, dips, entrees, desserts, and after-dinner drinks. However, it also offers the chef’s twist on home-cooked meals informed by his Polish background, education at Le Cordon Blu in Chicago, and a vast professional experience, including the popular Tail Up Goat in Washington DC, as well as stints at high-profile Arizona eateries such as Native American restaurant Kai , the Andalusian-inspired Prado, and Pizzeria Bianco—the latter under the tutelage of celebrated chef-cum-restauranteur Chris Bianco.
When the chef speaks about items on the menu they are named for a specific person, story, or family recipe. He started making perogies with his grandmother when he was young, so those are named after her, and are garnished with red chili garlic oil, sour cream, sesame, and lemon.
Other highlights on the menu are the pizzas. The Tavern Pie a piquant favorite with crushed tomato sauce, a special cheese blend, crumbled sausage, and banana peppers.
Other savory dishes range from kielbasa-stuffed pork schnitzel with pickled celery and fennel to pan-fried fish such as skate and flounder accompanied by a dandelion green salsa. The variety of bar snacks and small plates include crispy cabbage pancakes, a homemade pickle plate, and MD Crab Palacinke—a Serbian-style pancake with “warm farmers cheese filling.”