Nino’s Narcissistic Nosh

Old-school Italian restaurants undoubtedly have that old world charm baked into its very existence. But rarely do you see a restaurant whose owner so enmeshes himself into the place, there’s a whole wall depicting him mingling with celebrities.

Except, it’s not “him.” It’s “them.” Because he’s everywhere in that mural.

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He’s everywhere, I tell you.

But anyway! Aside from that creepy-ass photo looming over us as we ate, Nino’s wasn’t so bad.

Service:4 carrots Near Confection Perfection

When I first walked in, Nino was right at the door. He’s actually very nice and attentive, and is pretty much the lord of his domain in Ninoland.

I asked him right off the bat if they had anything vegan friendly at Nino’s. Nino promptly told me that a few pf their pasta options could be made vegan or customized according to whatever kind of pasta I like, and that the cheese can be taken off as well. Now that’s accommodation!

The waiters seem a bit standoffish, but I have no complaints. They were slow in bringing out the bread and olive oil, though that didn’t matter, since the bread wasn’t vegan (sad face).

Ambiance: Fair, but really, can't you do better? three carrots

Like most old world Italian joints, Nino’s has 90’s era worn-looking graphic carpeting, muted lighting and a dated look about everything. Still, it seemed clean and well-kept, even if it wasn’t up to modern times. Such is its charm.

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Nino’s is kind of fragmented: sports bar in the front, mafia in the back.

I wasn’t thrilled by the presence of two large-screen TVs that hung over the bar and adjacent to the entrance. They were incredibly bright and distracting, plus were tuned to sports channels, which I have 100% no interest in. They also clashed with the old-worldliness of the interior.

As a rule, if a restaurant has a bar, it should look enmeshed with the rest of the place, not stand out on its own. Nino’s has two parts: one, a family-style, mafia-esque inner restaurant past the bar, the full bar about 1/3 the way in, and a more casual entryway dining area. It just felt segmented as I made my way towards the back of the place to use the bathroom.

Linguine with Broccoli, Broccoli Rabe and Mushrooms ($24.00) Fair, but really, can't you do better?

The key to ordering in a nonvegan restaurant is to note which vegetables they advertise throughout their menu. Then, depending on the type of cuisine, you can try ordering them as an addition to your dish, or sub them for a nonvegan item. It takes a bit of finagling and negotiation, but it’s worked for me time and again.

If a dish is vegan without one nonvegan thing (i.e.: Pad Thai with vegetable and egg), I ask them, with an air of gracious inquiry (this is very important, as you are making their job a little bit more annoying) if they could simply “put more veggies” instead of the nonvegan ingredient to get the most for your money. I haven’t done portion comparison tests to see if that’s actually true, but I want to hope that my servers did mention it to the kitchen.

Nino’s was gracious enough to let me add quite a few veggies to my pasta. The end result was that I was probably charged a bit over for the add on ingredients, since Juan’s dish was $21 for one pasta entree, and mine was $24. The high price of veggies!

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Not the best, and not the worst. Just meh.

The pasta itself wasn’t anything special, but it was cooked well. I love when they put plenty of garlic into the dish, as I love garlic (even if it doesn’t love me back later… dragon breath!). They weren’t skimpy on on the rabe, either — rabe is the most expensive veggie, so I was happy to see a good portion in there.

Fruit Salad – $10.00 Fair, but really, can't you do better? three carrots

Never again am I getting a $10 fruit salad. To my credit, I rarely buy fruit salad anyway, so I don’t feel too bad. The fruits were probably worth a total of $3 though!

The price of my fruit salad made me a bit pallid :P
The price of my fruit salad made me a bit pallid :P

The fruit salad has slices of apple, watermelon, pineapple, kiwi, and oranges as well as a few red grapes. Everything was freshly sliced, definitely not from a can. Fruit salad is fruit salad, so there’s nothing much more to say besides that it wasn’t rotten!

One line rhyme-mary:

Come to Nino’s for the vino, but skip the pasta and play canasta.