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Nino’s Cucina Italiana offers updated menu and specialty drinks

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Burrata Bruschetta

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Christina Ruotolo

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Nino’s Cucina Italiana has just unveiled a new and expanded dinner and specialty cocktail menu, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Seventy-five years of Italian family tradition in baking and cooking with century-old recipes handed down from one generation to the next is at the heart of Nino’s. Owners Massimo, Pietro and Salvatore opened Nino’s in 2015 after years of successful restaurants including an Italian food center in New York and Marabella’s Old World Pizza that operates in Greenville and Washington.

Some new appetizers items include the Honey Roasted Shrimp and Scallops, Caprese appetizer, and one that got its start last year when Massimo attended a world pizza competition in Italy and was able to sample some balsamic pearls and fresh whipped mozzarella called Baratta. He loved it so much he came back with ingredients in-hand ready to have his customers fall in love with them to.

He developed a new appetizer called the Burrata Bruschetta. It starts with Burrata, which is a mozzarella cheese mixed with heavy cream that is whipped to snowy white peaks. It is piped over toasted crostini and drizzled with white truffle oil and topped with miniature balsamic pearls and a bit of alfalfa sprouts. The cheese has a soft and creamy taste and a bit of saltiness. The delicate truffle oil is glossy and luscious adding a touch of refined elegance, and when you take a bite, the plump balsamic pearls burst in your mouth and mix with the cream, sprouts and oil.

One of the new entrees on the menu is Linguine al Limore with shirmp, clams and mussels in a lemon cream sauce. This is the dish that won Massimo first place in the 2017 Northeast Pasta Showdown. Other new entrees include Spaghetti Carbonara, seared duck (Petto d’Ana) in a sherry wine reduction sauce, and stuffed flounder.

Another new item is the Melanzane Parmigiana. Battered eggplant with mozzarella and tomato is placed atop a large pile of handmade spaghetti nestled in spoonfuls of homemade marinara sauce and garnished with fresh basil. Nino’s is known for its marinara sauce, which has a robust flavor that is a balance between sweet and acid. The eggplant is thick-sliced, warm and meaty in texture and has a delicious seasoned breading that adds a nice crunch. This dish pairs beautifully with a Nebbiolo d’Alba red wine from Piemonte, Italy. It has a fruity, full and harmonious taste with ample tannins.

Also new on the menu is the Costoletti Divitello. Start with a large, grilled bone-in veal chop with oil, lemon and Italian spices. Place this atop a pile of arugula and garnish the plate with a sliced lemon wedge and a few bright red, blistered peppadew peppers. This dish is beautifully presented and had lovely seared grill marks. The veal chop has a small ridge of glossy white fat between the top and bottom portions of meat. This is what I call the magic in the meat. When you put the chop on the grill and start the cooking process, this fat literally melts into the meat, making the meat tender and juicy. It melts in your mouth and pairs perfectly with the sweet peppadew and peppery arugula. I drizzled on a bit of lemon and added a touch of balsamic vinegar for extra flavor. This dish is delicious and large enough for two people to share. It pairs well with a Chianti Classico Riserva from Toscana, Italy. This ruby red wine has aromas of cinnamon and leather with flavors of plum, blackberry and cassis.

Nino's also provides gluten-free bread and pasta for those with food allergies. In addition to the new and updated menu items, Nino’s has unveiled new specialty cocktails that utilize more fresh and unique ingredients. There is a varied wine list with selections from all over the world; pairing selections are suggested for each entree. For Valentine’s Day, Nino’s will be offering a limited four-course menu with appetizer, salad, entree and dessert. It also will offer special menu items from Feb. 15-19.

Nino’s is at 511 Red Banks Road. It is open for lunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. Dinner hours are from 3-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 3-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Catering is available. For more information, call 689-6446 or visit the website www.ninoscucinaitaliana.com.

Chili cookoff

The eighth annual Heat to Defeat ALS Chili Cookoff will be held Feb. 11 at Christy’s Euro Pub, 301 S. Jarvis St. The event is a benefit for the ALS Association. Entry fee is $20, and the tasting fee is $8. The tasting begins at 4 p.m. Cash prizes will be awarded. For more information, email martocciar@ecu.edu or search for Heat to Defeat ALS on Facebook.

Bone Appetit

The Humane Society of Eastern Carolina (HSEC) will host a Bone Appetit fundraising event from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday at Famiglia, 740 W. Fire Tower Road, Winterville. Five percent of all food and drink sales will be donated to HSEC. Write “for HSEC” on the receipt and alert the server.

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