According to Assistant General Manager and Event Coordinator Vinny Pelino, the history and atmosphere of the Italian delicatessen Nicola’s in Over-the-Rhine is something special, from the spacious rooms for private events to how warmth, kindness and courtesy are elements that are just as important as the dishes and wines.

“The culture of the city Nicola [the owner] is from has a really deep connection to food,” Pelino says, describing the culinary background of the restaurant’s owner, Nicola Pietoso. Raised in an orphanage in Tuscany, Italy, Nicola and his brothers originally started a restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri, in the early ‘90s after attending the Culinary Institute of Florence. After meeting his wife Marine, a Cincinnati native, he decided to move to the Queen City and open Nicola’s on Sycamore in 1996.

“He’s been in Over-The-Rhine since before it is what it is now. He likes the urban setting as it reminds him of home,” Pelino says.

It is one of the few restaurants in the neighborhood that offers a spacious dining area.

“We do a ton of business for our private dining rooms, especially wedding rehearsals,” Pelino says. With fives different spaces including a mezzanine and garden/patio, guests can hosts dinners from as few as 12 in the Wine Room through 80 people in the venue’s Main Dining Room.

Pietoso believes warmth, kindness and courtesy are elements that are just as important as the quality of the food in determining the customer’s experience in an establishment.

“Nicola’s has won four [AAA] Diamond Awards in five straight years and continues to be one of the best restaurants in the city. We continuously serve good food,” he proudly mentions.

Nicola’s uses ingredients that are in season and shops from local food suppliers such as Crossing Creeks Farms and Creation Gardens. The restaurant has recently created a new menu that includes dishes such as a Caprese salad that comes with heirloom cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil sprinkled with pearled balsamic vinegar and finished with a cold tomato water soup, also known as gazpacho. Potato gnocchi and pasta bolognese are traditional menu items offered that are hearty, homey dishes that will surely satisfy those coming in with an empty stomach.

“As he’s sharing food with people, that’s his way of sharing his identity,” Pelino says of Piestoso.

The restaurant also carries an extensive wine list. From featured glasses such as Rosato di Toscana to super Tuscans like Castello Banf, Nicola’s is happy to advise guests on the right pairings with meals.

“Nicola says Italian food always goes best with Italian wine,” Pelino says. Pelino also says that the restaurant wants customers to know how they’re treated is paramount to Nicola’s while dining at the restaurant. “We want for guests to have an enhanced, unique experience, and that’s the most important ingredient.” M-Th 5:30-10 p.m., Sa 5:30-11 p.m. 1420 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-721-6200, nicolasotr.com.


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