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Nino's features award-winning Italian culinary maserpieces

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Nino's Smooth Sicilian is cool and refreshing.

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Christina Ruotolo

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

For almost three years, family-owned and operated Nino’s Cucina Italiana has been crafting award-winning culinary masterpieces that keep guests coming back for more.

The leaders of this Italian helm are Salvatore Passalacqua, Massimo Mannino and Pietro Passalacqua. From their start at a little delicatessen in New York and to Greenville where they have spent the last 20 years, they have provided fresh, quality food made with personality and love.

The love they have for both their family and cooking comes through in every dish. From traditional Italian pastas to ciabattas, handmade breads, desserts, wines and artfully crafted cocktails, you can taste the passion in every bite and sip.

Nino’s also has a charming replica of the deli from New York City where you can see men at work baking bread and other homemade items for customers to enjoy. All of the pasta, sauces, breads, dressings and mozzarella are scratch-made and there are gluten-free pasta options as well.

Let me introduce you to a fun cocktail to get you off on the right track. The Smooth Sicilian is a  cool, refreshing drink that will remind you why you love spring. Basil Hayden’s bourbon is shaken with Disaronno Amaretto, blood orange juice, lemon juice, simple syrup and a dab of aromatic bitters. It’s garnished with a slice of blood orange. This scarlet-colored drink has a bright citrus bite with a floral bouquet side note and warm ribbons of bourbon flavor. It was visually appealing too with the blood orange that has a deep citrus flavor and intensity. This cocktail costs $11.

Now that spring is here, trees and flowers are bursting forth in bloom and the sun is finally shining bright again. What better way to bring in spring than enjoying patio dining amid flowering plants and lemon tree while listening to Italian music, or sitting on a cozy couch at dusk drinking a glass of wine by the warming fire? Sit under twinkle-lit pergolas sharing laughs and a bottle of your favorite wine with friends, or enjoy appetizers or cocktails with family to help you unwind after a busy week.The outdoor dining area is open year-round, and there is enough seating for 50 people.

The crowd-favorite pizzeria, Marabella’s, is owned by the same family, which is equally known for creating pizzas that have won awards and gone down in the hall of fame of pizzas.This past year, Massimo won the title of Best Pizza in the World for making a pizza that will make your taste buds swoon.

Nino’s has fashioned a ciabatta with those same award-winning ingredients, Massimo’s award-winning ciabatta. This dish has been turned from a full-size pizza to a vertical ciabatta appetizer.

Start with hand-kneaded pizza dough with the just the right amount of rise and bake it up into a pillow pocket just waiting to be topped with a handmade marinara sauce that, in my opinion, should be bottled and named Nino’s Italian Magic. Add large pieces of seasoned Italian sausage, large chunks of roasted garlic, sweet aromatic basil and top this with a trifecta of harmonious cheeses: burrata, mozzarella and provolone.

After inhaling the aromatics and feasting the eyes on the picturesque beauty of this dish, there is no doubt why it was named the best. The crust was soft, chewy and had just the right bite, and the combination of sweet, roasted garlic with fresh basil and savory sausage and marinara was divine. This pizza is a “last meal on earth” or “add to your bucket list” type of dish that costs $12.

Nino’s has so much to choose from, whether you are coming for lunch or want a delectable dinner. Some of the other dishes that earn top honors for me are the Bruschetta, Wild Mushroom Ravioli, Melanzane Parmigiana (eggplant) or the Veal Piccata. The knowledgeable staff will help you select a meal paired with a glass of wine or cocktail so your dining experience is effortless and enjoyable no matter the occasion.

Nino’s is at 511 Red Banks Road. Lunch hours are from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; dinner hours are from 3-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Catering is available. Call 689-6446 or visit www.ninoscucinaitaliana.com for more information.

Texas Roadhouse

Texas Roadhouse, 720 S.W. Greenville Blvd., will be open from noon-11 p.m. Friday for East Carolina University graduation. Call 353-7427.

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. A percentage of all food and drink sales will be donated to HSEC. Write “for HSEC” on the receipt and alert the server.

Bonefish Grill

Bonefish Grill is featuring seasonal seafood dishes this spring. The dishes include Crab Salsa and Guacamole; Pineapple Glazed Hawaiian Shrimp Skewer and Coconut Risotto; Creole-style Redfish; and Thai-Inspired Georges Bank Sea Scallops. Bonefish Grill is at 3616 S. Memorial Drive. Call 754-0761.

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