Last night, we ate at Nicola's for the first time but it won't be the last. We normally do not eat Italian out of town because Cleveland has outstanding Italian restaurants but we'll be making an exception for this one.
The rustic ambiance is charming and although Nicola's is white tablecloth and attentive service, it is not overbearing. Our waiter was incredibly knowledgeable about the wine list and expertly picked the perfect wine out of the wines that we were thinking about to complement the food.
As soon as we ordered our drinks, we were brought a basket of beautiful, tasty, and different breads. It would have been very easy to fill up on those. Then, before the first course arrived, we each had the Italian equivalent of an amuse-bouche, a toast with a pea and chive puree that was delicious.
Although many of the standard items were on the menu, there were also several that were unique. For the first course, we shared a grilled asparagus with ricotta, black olive, arugula, and a poached egg. It far exceeded our expectations.
Our second course was the risotto with lamb and spring vegetables. We are always reluctant to order risotto because it is usually cooked into submission but decided that it would be excellent here. We were right! Visually we were worried because the rice was covered with a creamy sauce but we could still taste each individual grain which perfectly complemented the rich lamb and the crunchy green vegetables.
We finished the meal with the dessert special, a blackberry pannacotta accompanied by a lemon gelato and a raspberry coulis.
This is not an inexpensive restaurant but it is worth every penny. Dinner with a drink, two glasses of wine, and an espresso was $96 plus tip.