Nick’s Ristorante

3 Jan 2011
Expensive ($26 and up)
Southeast Huntsville
4 out of 5
Nick's Ristorante

Melanie’s Take

Even though Shane and I love to eat out, we don’t love to overpay for food. You might think that this means we’re cheap and maybe it does, but we are occasionally more than happy to fork it over for really good food. Wednesday night was one of those times. It was nearing the end of our four-month commitment to chain-free dining and we wanted to go out with a bang. After hearing about Nick’s Ristorante, a new fine-dining restaurant on Bailey Cove, I called and reserved a table for two. Nick is a retired military man who decided to open a restaurant with his wife where she could contribute some family recipes to the talents of a trained chef and where he could hang out at the adjoining cigar bar with other military buddies and cigar aficionados. Don’t be fooled by the family recipes; this food is sophisticated and classically prepared, not cobbled together by sweet old ladies in the kitchen.

Inside Nick's Ristorante

Upon arriving, we were greeted by Nick himself and taken to the dining room, which is sealed off by a door from the cigar bar. Even though the areas are separate, you do enter through the bar area, a minor drawback for those of us who don’t like the smell of cigar smoke. The dining room is well decorated with rich tones and dim lighting. After being seated, Nick introduced the waitstaff and brought me a black napkin. I once heard that the sign of a truly nice restaurant is that it provides a black napkin if you are wearing black to prevent the lint of the white napkin from spotting your trousers. So far, I’ve eaten at three black-napkin restaurants in my lifetime and have found them a mixed bag of tastiness. Nick’s, however, was clearly tasty. We ordered fried green tomatoes with lump crabmeat and remoulade as an appetizer. While waiting for them, our excellent waiter brought us a plate of italian breadsticks with a cold cheese dip made of a mixture of cheeses and port. The dip was the best version of the inside of a cheeseball that I have ever had. It was sharp and smooth and full of complex flavors. Yum. The fried green tomatoes kept up the same quality of taste. They were perfectly fried with a crispy cornmeal crust and the crabmeat and remoulade served with them were excellent. The sweetness of the crabmeat was a smart pairing with the tartness of the tomatoes. Crabcakes For my entree, I chose the stuffed porkchop with garlic mashed potatoes and a wedge salad. Shane and I munched on our salads as we waited for the main entrees. The wedge was well executed with crispy bacon, red onion, tomatoes, blue cheese, and a crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce. Kudos to Nick’s for not skimping on the blue cheese in its dressing. It was another delicious element to the meal. When my entree arrived, the chop looked perfectly cooked. It was stuffed with a think layer of proscuitto de parma and asiago cheese and was served alongside a mini gravy boat of au jus and some garlic mashed potatoes. Almost everything was delicious. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by the potatoes. The garlic flavor was nearly absent and the potatoes lacked richness as if someone didn’t drain all of the water before mashing. It was the only item that was left on my plate all evening. All in all, Nick’s was a fantastic experience, and we will plan to go back when our wallets allow. We were too stuffed for dessert, but with all we ate and a tip, we paid $100, a fair price for food this good. Stuffed Porkchop

Shane’s Take

Some restaurants just do things right. They have a pleasant atmosphere, they serve delicious food, and they take care of their customers. Every once in a while, I eat at a restaurant that delivers all three of these in a way that just satisfies me. Nick’s did just that. As Melanie said, Nick met us as we walked in the door. He was friendly, polite, proud of his store, and glad to serve us. He is very much a military man, coming from a culture much different from my own, but I felt comfortable in his company. Except for his looks, he reminded me of Tom Landry—he’s the kind of guy who may be tough and who surely demands respect, but he is willing to serve and to repay in double those who are good to him. From our first introduction, I was glad to eat at his restaurant and was confident that he would take care of us. The food was excellent. The complimentary bread sticks and cheese spread were pleasant in appearance and flavor. Nick told us the recipe was his wife’s, and he rightly should be proud of it. I assume she served it at home before serving it at the restaurant, but it isn’t out of place in the restaurant. It would work well at home or in a nice restaurant. Our appetizer, the crab-topped fried green tomatoes, were delicious: the crab was plentiful, the crust was just the right crustiness, and the tomatoes had a good green tomato flavor. Plus, at $8, they were a great deal—I never expected the amount of crab we received. Wedge Salad I also enjoyed my entree, a filet mignon with a sweet potato on the side. As Melanie mentioned, we received a wedge salad with our entree. I selected the house vinaigrette as a dressing, and it had a nice flavor and kick to it (there surely was some alcohol in it). My steak was cooked well, was tender, and had a great flavor to it. I wish I’d not chosen it to be butterflied, as it would’ve been a bit pinker and juicier, but the gravy on the side clearly was meant to counter the dryness and did a nice job of it. I also wish it had a bit more seasoning or flavoring to it, but I may not be fair in my analysis, as I’m not a steak connoisseur by any measure. The sweet potato, flanked by cinnamon and a scoop of butter, was a nice complement to the steak. The atmosphere at Nick’s is interesting, as it’s split into a cigar bar on one side and a dining room on the other side. Although the dining room is isolated from the bar, some of the smoke still seeps through and probably would bother patrons who have no tolerance for the smell of cigars. Personally, I liked it. The lighting and seating arrangements are formal but comfortable. The dim lighting, the deep red paints, and the dark chairs make for a simple, straightforward, fine dining atmosphere. Some of the decor looked like it came from Hobby Lobby, but it didn’t detract from the upscale feel of the restaurant. Although we only walked through it, the bar half of the store looked nice also. Some bars are creepy and no place for friendly people. To me, Nick’s bar looked like a place to responsibly enjoy a nice smoke and drink with friends, rather than a place to imbibe and curse and stalk. Steak and PotatoI also enjoyed our service. Our waiter was attentive and kind. He obviously wanted to give us a fine dining experience, but he wasn’t stodgy or snooty. I really appreciated his service. Nick’s is a nice restaurant. It’s pricey, but we were treated kindly, we ate delicious food, and we enjoyed our visit. We also enjoyed a pleasant conversation with the owner, and, well, he’s a cool guy, which really added to the experience. If you have some extra money and a birthday or an anniversary coming up, it’s worth considering. Other notes:

  • Ask Nick about what he does with extra cigars. Pretty cool stuff.
  • We didn’t try the dessert, but it sounded awfully good. Plus, our waiter invited us to return for dessert and coffee some time, which not all fine dining restaurants welcome.
  • If you’re a cigar smoker and are ready for an alternative to hanging out at The Humidor, this may be the place to go.
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3 Responses

  1. Ginger Simmons

    I’m glad you guys tried this place. I had heard about it, but hadn’t spoken to anyone who had been there yet. This may be a nice place to try for Valentine’s Day. 🙂

  2. Phyllis Young Basham

    Enter me for the cupcakes. I have enjoyed reading all the reviews that you have posted. Maybe sometime I will try some of the places.

  3. Lara Baswell

    So glad you guys liked it. I had high hopes.

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