Located just up the street in Cotati, I am wondering why I never went out of my way ? not too far and just up the street ? to this tasty little restaurant. All homemade and all home-style, I?m feeling like I?m at Capp?s Corner in North Beach. Turns out, he knows the owners of Capp?s and most everyone in North Beach, where he started out, and even has some pictures of himself with some very famous Italian men you see on the History Channel for less savory reasons than fine food. But Nicolino is no mobster. He is a very sweet man and his restaurant is truly old-school Italian.
Nicolino?s has been there for there 13 years. As we sip some wonderful Montepulciano D?abruzzo together, he confides that his success is due to his love of people and his secret family recipes.
He is from Barri Monfetta, a small fishing village in south Italy, and he spent 22 years working in North Beach. His chefs are Benny and Tommy Fee and their specialties are lasagnetta (small lasagna) and cannelloni.
Everything here is made fresh. They use free-range meats and nothing is frozen. Dry rib-eyes are quite delicious, with a pepper butter and big, fresh and bountiful bruschetta stacked deep in tomato with fields of fresh basil and garlic. The salads are perfect and petite and the dressing matches nicely.
My final course is the Osso Bucco. Yes, they have Osso Bucco! Julien carrots piled high and broccoli help to adorn this rare and hard-to-find dish. Atop polenta, it falls off the bone, cooked to perfection. For dessert, the Tiramisu with flaky stacks and light Belgian chocolate, is unbelievable.
This food is really good and Nicolino is a very nice man.
My second stop is Risibisi, which has had some recent changes, including sole ownership by Marco Palmieri. Marco is relaxed and business looks good. The atmosphere is calm and very comfortable. Jacob, his sommelier since last year, is quite knowledgeable and offers us a beautiful Amarone from Corteforte ($90) to pair with my braised short ribs and steak frites. He is extremely polite and may be the most courteous waiter in town.
For starters, we are served a nice, crisp, dry house prosecco to pair with the a grandiose pile of lightly battered and delicious calamari. It is very fresh and it melts in your mouth. Point taken: I am a calamari snob and will condemn it when cooked or presented poorly. I?m cheering for this one.
Oh, happy Halloween ? it?s pumpkin raviolis that have dropped onto the table and they are goblins of genius. Sage and crumbled amaretto cookies, come on! Then crushed walnuts? This dish is most tasty. For my entree, braised short ribs with red wine jus, mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
Like our medalists on the board that didn?t win us a gold, I dive into my dish with a nice tug of the Amarone to follow. The smoke in the meat resonates with its deep, firm sauce and then a folly of gorgeous lighter cherry summer fruit echoes through my senses and chases it down. If your love is running deep, come and swim in this dark beauty. Let?s just say it?s a cross between Salma Hayek, a warm stick of black licorice, and a fine-tuned 911 turbo. The potatoes are perfect. The snappy green beans and buttery zucchini are lovely. Lovely is the night. Lovely is this new Risibisi.