Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of spending time with some awesome friends of mine. We were so excited to catch up and have dinner at a new restaurant that neither of us had been to. The plan was to try something eclectic and healthy. A vegan experience was at the top of our mental rolodex, but our appetites shamelessly opposed the meatless idea. My stomach in particular spelled out H-E-A-R-T-Y. My idea of hearty usually means MEAT and lots of it. We just knew we couldn't go wrong with Italian food.
The plan was to grab some drinks after dinner in the downtown area so we decided to pick an eatery nearby. After perusing the Urban Spoon website we opted to dine at Nicola's Italian Wine and Fare. Nicolas was a place that I had wanted to try for a long time, unfortunately I never knew where it was. When we approached the restaurant I just couldn't believe that it was right across the street from Hiro, one of the most popular sushi restaurants in Omaha. As much as I want to say this restaurant is tucked away; it really is not. However, I will say that if you are not looking for Nicola's then you might just miss it. There is no breathtaking architecture leading up to the entrance. It has a big city coffee shop charm to it, but then again, it is actually connected to a coffee shop.The patio delivers a pinch of intrigue with a taste of downtown-hipster regalness that convinces you to spend lots of money on cocktails and tipping. Thank God we visited Nicola's in the night chill of fall otherwise we would have succumbed to the patio's visual persuasion.
Once we walked in I was somewhat astonished by how small the restaurant actually was; especially since the patio gave an illusion of much more space. The inside of Nicola's truly did mimic the size of a neighborhood coffee shop. It was very quaint and filled with diners who appeared to be regulars and enjoying their food. There were several people waiting to be seated at the entrance. There was limited space to stand so we waited until we were able to sit at the bar. I couldn't help but to notice that many of the customers were in large parties of four more. The owner of the restaurant was very involved in the guest experience as he took our order for drinks and reassured us that our table was on the way. He entertained us in some conversation as we had drinks and waited for seating. It wasn't long before we realized he was very cultured person and knew a mutual acquaintance of ours. He even gave us some suggestions on places to visit to hear some good local music. We were finally seated after a couple kindly released their table and traded seats with us at the bar to indulge in some dessert coffee. This was definitely the kind of restaurant that made you want to linger around after the main course and stay for some baileys Irish coffee and tiramisu.
When we took our seats I looked all around and tried to bask in the hospitable comfort that Nicola offers. I found it even more peculiar that Nicola's only had male servers working that night. I didn't find it to be a problem; as they all were kind and gave excellent service to their guests.
(Bowl of Squash Soup $4.95)
I started off with their soup of the day; which happened to be a squash! It was absolutely AMAZING!!! The squash was pureed to perfection with no traces of its origin once being a vegetable. The texture was creamy and evenly whipped. There was just that right touch of buttery sweetness to it that was very reminscent of sweet potato bake. It was extremely delectable. There seamed to be a sea of floating pecans that I tasted with every bite. Honestyly, the pecans may have been a little overkill. The soup was served with a slice of toasted buttered bread. It was the perfect compliment to the soup. I finished this dish anticipating the likes of Thanksgiving. It was undoubtedly a first plate that warmed a cold soul and left you with delightful memories of family and holidays.
(Lasagna Mediterranean $18.95)
For my main course I decided to go with the server's suggestion of the Lasagna Mediterranean. The ragu sauce lived up to it's menu description of being hearty. I would have liked for the consistency of the sauce to have been just a tad bit thicker. I felt that it was a little too watery and runny for my liking. Nevertheless, it was still tasty and filling. I asked the server to bring me out a boat load of Parmesan cheese to coat my lasagna. The meatballs added to the heartiness of the lasagna. The seasoning was a little heavy for me as I have cut back on salt. It shouldn't be a problem for anyone that regularly consumes a large amount of salt. I think the Lasagna Mediterranean was good, but it didn't make me jump for joy. I would order something else the next time I return. Our server assured my party that all their dishes are prepared homemade. I think this adds to the charm of Nicola's.
(Ravioli di Scampi di Gambero $16.95)
(Ravioli di Carne or Formaggio $15.95)
Overall I really enjoyed my experience at this restaurant. The quaint charm of Nicola's is perfect for any dinner occasion; whether it be a night out your with family, friends, or your significant other.The food is delicious, the service is FIRST CLASS; moreover their crowd is satisfied. Nicola's Italian Wine and Fare definitely reaffirms the notion that looks aren't everything.