Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nino's Italian Kitchen

11070 Alpharetta Hwy, Roswell, GA 30076 www.ninositaliankitchen.com

On Saturday night Kyle and I had dinner with our friends Dan and Rebecca at Nino's in Roswell.

All of our entrees came with a choice of soup or salad. I opted for the cream of broccoli soup, which was quite good. It was subtle, with small chunks of broccoli and a lovely light green hue. Wish I would have ordered a whole bowl of this.

I ordered the meat ravioli with plum tomato and basil sauce ($13). The menu claims the ravioli is homemade. This may be true, but if so, someone in the kitchen isn't doing much to the meat within besides pulverizing it. The meat had basically no flavor of its own, while the sauce was too heady. I loved the plum tomatoes and fresh, shredded basil, but the sauce was overloaded with pepper. There was nothing on the menu to indicate this would be a spicy sauce, so I wasn't expecting that. Our server told us that arrabiata sauce, another option for the ravioli, was the spicier version - that must be very hot indeed.

Rebecca ordered the eggplant Parmesan ($11.50). I tried it, and thought it was baked just right, and the portion size was good. Kyle ordered the manicotti ($11.50), which was filled with ricotta cheese, and topped with Parmesan and your choice of a marinara or a meat sauce. The pasta appeared to be overcooked. Manicotti is a traditional Italian dish, and Nino's made it in the simplest way possible. I'd like to see a more unusual option on the menu, like one with a creamy pesto sauce.

I guess what I'm getting at is that everything on the menu was completely predictable, right down to the moderate quality bread, and a wine list that includes Chianti in the straw bottle. (And if you don't already know this, Chianti in the cute straw bottle is always priced for it's packaging and of inferior quality.)

We had excellent service from Karyn, who was upbeat and made us feel very welcome. Dan and Rebecca have been to Nino's many times, and they said this was by far the best service they'd ever received. According to them, the servers are usually nice enough, but there are too few of them to adequately cover the tables.

Having been to (Northern) Italy twice, I'm not an expert on authentic Italian cooking, but I do know a little bit about it. One problem I always have with Americanized Italian places like Nino's is that most dishes are overseasoned - too much oregano, too much pepper, so much garlic that you're still tasting it over 24 hours later. Nino's isn't the only Italian restaurant in the metro area that's guilty of this, but they are one of the guilty parties.

You'll end up paying more, but if your goal is top quality, authentic Italian cuisine, I'd recommend Veni Vedi Vici or previously reviewed Sotto Sotto over Nino's. If you want a decent (but not the best) place that's more family friendly and located in the suburbs, Nino's is the way to go.

Verdict: I'd be willing to eat here again if I was in the area, but I wouldn't seek it out.

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