Nothing at Nino’s distracts from the food.
Located on the corner of a shopping center, Nino’s Italian Restaurant does not shout about its existence with huge signs like the chain establishment a couple doors down.
Its ambience is quiet, with soft lighting, candles on white-clothed tables and minimal art decorating the walls.
Nino’s lets the menu speak for itself.
Using locally produced meats, vegetables and other products whenever possible, Nino’s features a diverse selection of Italian meals with a few Louisiana flourishes.
The appetizer selection ranges from Italian staples pizza and gnocchi to the Japanese-Louisiana fusion of a tuna roll with crab remoulade. For our table the most appealing choice was the $25 antipasto with house-cured meats, cheeses and pickles with flatbread. Our excellent waiter assured us this would be a large appetizer for the two of us, so we went with our second choice — the crab cakes ($18).
Served on a white rectangular platter, the three crab cakes came covered with sweet orange bell pepper, carrots and a citrus vinaigrette. Crispy on the tops and bottoms, the cakes had a dense yet not chewy middle. While crab cakes often taste extremely rich, these were a pleasant beginning to a great meal.
My dining companion chose the black linguine ($19). This intriguing pasta dish featured handmade squid-ink pasta, with a smooth texture and deep eggplant color. It was finished with a scallop mousse, sprinkled with perfectly-cooked buttery shrimp and garnished with crisp green beans and heirloom tomatoes.
The flavors in the scallop mousse were blended well and, along with the citrus zest, complemented the subtle flavor of the pasta.
I chose the timpano ($21), a time-consuming traditional Italian dish. Served like a thick slice from a larger casserole, the timpano featured a crust of pasta filled with Italian sausage, grilled vegetables, a boiled egg and ricotta cheese-stuffed rigatoni. Covered with a slightly sweet, not-too-rich marinara sauce and parmesan cheese, the entree was a hearty, flavorful surprise. Each bite was different, but the dish felt unified within its pasta crusts.
For dessert, we considered bread pudding but chose chocolate decadence ($7), a chocolate torte drizzled with caramel sauce and pecans and topped with whipped cream. While sweet and rich, it never overwhelmed. Made for savoring, the dessert was enjoyed very slowly. We would recommend this to any connoisseur of chocolate.
We paired the dessert with coffee that was a tasty low-acid medium roast with a rich flavor. It was as enjoyable as the rest of the meal.
Like many smaller restaurants, Nino’s closes two days a week — Sunday and Monday. Reservations may be required for weekend evenings.