Nick’s Ristorante [5/5]
5 (100%) 2 votes

NIck's Ristorante
I first noticed Nick’s Ristorante while out running errands on weekend. However, the heavy emphasis on their cigar lounge convinced me that this would be a poor choice for my asthmatic hubby and smoke-sensitive self. But it kept popping up in conversation and when Pamela (the same reader who recommended The Eaves) sent an email asking for a review, I knew we had to give it a go. Pamela was so kind as to do some seating reconnaissance, so when I made our reservations I asked specifically to be seated in the back corner of the non-smoking area.

We arrived precisely on time and were warmly greeted by Dave, one of the owners. He introduced himself, took our names, and seated us while describing the vision for the resturant. The wait staff unobtrusively brought water and several thin bread sticks served with a cheese spread as he spoke.

NIck's Ristorante
The spread was made with a basil pesto, red wine, cheese, and garlic. It had a thick, rich consistency but I found it a touch too garlicky/salty for my taste. My hubby thought it was delicious as was and I will say it paired wonderfully with the crisp sesame seed coated breadsticks.

While we munched on the breadsticks, we pondered the menu. I was a little disappointed with the choices, which felt very “safe”. Sirlon and ribeye and fillet mignon. Garlic mashed potatoes and green beans and wedge salads. In the end, my hubby opted for the fillet mignon with a side of steak flavored rice and blue cheese dressing for his wedge salad. I selected the fresh catch of the day, halibut topped with Parmesan cheese and served with steak flavored rice and grilled asparagus. I chose balsamic vinaigrette as my dressing.

Once our order was in, our server brought us a basket of warm bread and olive oil for dipping. We were each given our own bowl for dipping which was an unusual touch and saved having to reach awkwardly across the table.

NIck's Ristorante
The bread had a dreamy texture with a crunchy outer crust and a springy, dense interior. By itself it had a soft garlic flavor bestowed by baked in cloves of garlic. I preferred the bread plain as the dipping oil was so thick and heavy that it overwhelmed the flavor of the bread.

We chatted as we sampled the bread, taking in the ambiance and the decor. We marveled at how the gorgeously appointed interior was a far cry from the strip mall setting just outside the door. And we breathed freely. Despite the wall of smoke that greeted us when we first walked in, once we walked through the door into the non-smoking room, it had been blissfully smoke free. I’m not quite sure how they managed it, especially given that the kitchen was an open one, with a pass through into both areas, but while eating, I managed to completely forget we were in a smoking establishment.

Our salads came up and I was happily surprised to see that our “wedge” salad involved more than a quarter head of iceberg lettuce and some dressing. Indeed, they had pared the iceberg down to a much more reasonable eighth of a head and surrounded it with bacon, feta, black olives, cherry tomatoes, and red onions. Dressing was served on the side making it easy to ensure the salad was dressed to my liking.

NIck's Ristorante
The cherry tomatoes were bursting with flavor, the feta creamy and the bacon smoky. The iceberg lettuce was standard iceberg lettuce but it was fresh and crisp. The balsamic vinaigrette was creamy and tangy.

Once we finished our salads, our entrées appeared and this is where Nick’s started to really shine.

NIck's Ristorante
My halibut was astonishingly tender and moist. Unencumbered, only sprinkled lightly with Parmesan and herbs, the Halibut was delicately flavored and delicious. The asparagus, a mix of white and green, had been coated in butter, lightly salted and peppered and grilled. The grilling lent it a distinctive flavor, crunchier exterior and tender interior that was a nice change of pace from the more usual sauted asparagus. The “steak” flavored rice was a rich, full bodied rice, lightly oiled and cooked with mushrooms.

The hubby enjoyed his fillet (see the image at the top of the post), declaring it “super tender” and the steak flavored rice delicious.

We finished off the evening by asking our server for his recommendation for dessert. He pointed us to their newest confection, a poached pear. Since we were looking for something light, we happily decided to split one.

NIck's Ristorante
The small pear was strongly flavored with red wine without being boozy. The creme anglaise provided a nice sweet note against the spiced base. Together, it evoked Christmas, scents of mulled wine and cider.

Throughout our meal, Dave continued to stop in and regale us with tales about the food and the restaurant. These interruptions were brilliantly balanced though so as to be gracious and charming and not obnoxious or intrusive. The service had all of the ever present attentiveness that you expect from fine dining but stayed true to Dave’s stated goal of making everyone feel like family. More Mediterranean in concept, this is where the staff made a point of learning your name, welcomed back repeat customers, and genuinely wanted to know what else they could do to make you comfortable.

The dishes don’t parse as exotic but they are well executed and nicely balanced. The entrée prices seemed high at first glance, but they include the salad, which brings them inline with most fine dining establishments in town.

Total for the meal: $78.84 (included two entrées, two soft drinks, and dessert)

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