Re-Review: Nicola’s

Sometimes The Boyfriend and I get into dining ruts. Our Friday nights go something like this:

“What are you thinking, dinner-wise?”

“I don’t know, what do you want?”

“I don’t know, what do YOU want?”

We go ’round and ’round until we end up at one of a few standard places:

Morton’s for their super cheap happy hour

Shanghai Mama’s

Rock Bottom



With the play, my new job, and a few other things, we’ve been pretty uncreative and uninspired. However, with our monthly dinner club, the choice is taken from us! Thank goodness. I don’t know if I could handle any more shrimp tempura.

Our friend Tracy chose Nicola’s, which I reviewed after Cincinnati EATS.  I was pretty excited– I hadn’t had an actual dinner there, but I had eaten at Via Vite (an excellent meal!) about a week before and was super-excited to return.

We had a party of fourteen people, so they sat us upstairs.  I have heard from people who dine at Nicola’s regularly that upstairs is not the place to sit.  Because they have issues staging the food, the service just isn’t as good upstairs.  Sadly, I can’t help but agree.  Our reservations were at 7 PM, and we finally left around 10:30 PM (and some at the table hadn’t eaten dessert yet!).  Again, we had a HUGE party, but there were some definite lags between service that were longer than we expected.  Next time we go, it will be just the two of us– and we’ll ask to sit downstairs.

nicola's, soupWe started with appetizers– I got a beautifully plated Jonah crab salad (that reminded my friend Wendy of the salad they used to serve at Pigall’s) and Terry got a really lovely cauliflower soup, topped with lobster, veggies, pepper and rosemary oil.  The soup was very good, with a very pure cauliflower flavor, but almost overwhelmed by the garnish.  The Jonah crab salad had avocado, citrus and pomegranate seeds and was absolutely full of fresh flavors.  I could have easily made a meal oDSCN2120ut of it, and felt satiated but not over-full.

For our entrees, I selected the gnocchi with truffles, which were out of this world.  I love gnocchi– the portion was very generous– but I couldn’t finish.  They were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, like little pillows of truffle-infused goodness.

Terry went with a sublime asparagus risotto, topped with two perfectly cooked scallops.  I had someDSCN2119 of Cristian Pietoso’s risotto the week before, and though he is no longer at the helm of Nicola’s, many of his recipes have stayed.  This risotto was creamy, but not too thick, and beautifully seasoned.  So pretty, too– the green makes me think of spring.

We skipped dessert– though they served the same chocolate ganache that I had last time.  Neither of us had a sweet tooth last night (and, to be honest, I was more than full).

I will definitely be back to Nicola’s— however, I won’t go with a large group.  There were some grumblings amongst the group about the timing, which I totally understand– it DID take longer than it should have.  As far as pricing, a beer and a Manhattan, two appetizers and two entrees was about $115 before tip– about what I expected.  If you’d like to do Nicola’s for a little bit less, try out one of their weekday prix fixe menus, which start at $50 for four courses or $60 for five.

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2 thoughts on “Re-Review: Nicola’s”

  • I’ve mentioned before that Nicola’s is my favorite restaurant in Cincinnati and I loved when I worked downtown and got to go there for the occasional lunch. Alas, I don’t get to Nicola’s much at all anymore. If you are in a small group, service at Nicola’s is always attentive and timely. However, anything remotely resembling a large group and the service falls apart. Several years ago we had our holiday work party there. If you thought a group of 14 was ill-served, you should have been with a group of 30-50. The first table was done with their desserts before some of the other tables even got served. As always, the food was excellent, but Nicola’s is definitely not the place to take anything other than a few friends.

  • I like Nicola’s but I find it a bit pricey. Last time I was there with some suburanite friends who fear downtown. Of course, there was a shooting and we were blocked in the restaurant….oh well.

    I’ve ONLY been seated upstairs. Wonder what I’m missing.

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