NINO’S is the newest Italian on the block in Jesmond – but with a plethora of Italian eateries in the area, many will be asking what’s new.
Fortunately, this one stands out from the crowd. Their cicchetti – the Italian take on tapas – are worth trying. And the home-made desserts are pretty stand-out too.
The privately-owned Nino’s in Jesmond is the sister establishment to the restaurant in The Gate in Newcastle, and has taken up residence in the former Mandalay restaurant on Holly Avenue West.
I’ve eaten before at The Gate restaurant and it has a completely different feel. It’s busy, busy, busy, and diners have one eye on cinema times and their watches. Here, it was a slower vibe, and more leisurely and relaxed for it, I felt.
It’s slightly off the beaten track, just off Osborne Road, which can be a good thing in some ways. Not so many students, stag dos and taxis... But it can mean it gets overlooked too, which would be a shame.
A case in point the Saturday lunchtime we called in. Two people were just leaving as we were arriving – and the place was completely empty of diners. It’s new, though, and business builds up over time.
Inside, it’s bright and modern in style with a fresh feel. The décor is simple, cream leather seats, oatmeal carpet and wooden floor and ‘thought-provoking’ sayings dotted around the walls, such as ‘What goes around comes around’.
I have to say, we were more interested in the menu, though. Their cicchetti offerings with the likes of tempura monkfish with dipping mayo and Venetian frittata, looked seriously tempting.
They also offer fish, steak, chicken, pizza, pasta, risotto and children’s meals, made fresh to order.
Their happy hour deals looked especially good value, including two starters for £5.95 and two glasses of wine for £5.95 plus selected pizza or pasta dishes for £5.95. With children’s meals, it’s also buy one, get one free during happy hour.
The adults fancied a pick and mix kind of lunch so the cicchetti ticked our boxes. It’s a change from pizza/pasta and chicken and steak offerings. The kids both opted for half portions of risotto, the idea being they’d help us out.
The staff were friendly and chatty – and we never felt rushed even though we were still the only ones in there! They suggested about five cicchetti between the two of us.
We ordered a glass of Prosecco, Extra Dry, £5.95, for me, and a bottle of Corona, £3.45, for the other half and J20s, £2.65, for the children
Our cicchetti all arrived at once and made for a very tempting array.
Arancini, £5.25, are a particular favourite of mine, and this offering, three giant rice balls, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried, did not disappoint. These parcels of densely packed risotto with creamy mushrooms, were so moreish.
Meatball tom toms, £4.95, three substantial pork and beef offerings with rich Napoli tomato sauce and topped with cheese sauce, were also good. They had used quality meat but the dish could have been warmer.
Panzarotti, £5.25, three mini calzone (folded-over pizzas), filled with stringy mozzarella and ham, with a pool of sweet tomato and basil sauce, was perfect for dipping.
Funghi fusion, £4.95, three large Portobello mushrooms filled with creamy blue cheese and roasted red peppers was nice enough.
We ordered a Nino’s salad, £4.25, to offset the damage of all the rich, naughty stuff, this one with mixed leaves, herbs, sun-dried tomatoes adding tanginess, toasted pine nuts, and parmesan shavings.
It wasn’t the healthiest of lunches but was extremely filling. We enjoyed trying an assortment of dishes, and besides, on cold days your body craves filling foods.
The older teen enjoyed her funghi risotto, £4.75, which was peppered with button mushrooms, chopped asparagus and toasted pine nuts, all wrapped in a creamy, garlicky sauce flavoured with parmesan. The arborio rice also had a delicious bite to it.
Pollo risotto, £4.95, was just the right quantity and a tasty dish too, again liberally sprinkled with diced chicken breast, mushrooms and asparagus in a creamy, parmesan sauce, all topped with rocket leaves.
The desserts from Nino’s are top notch – I’ve had them before at their eaterie in The Gate. We shared tiramisu, £4.95, with a thick creamy layer top and bottom, and coffee flavoured filling. It was a rich, belt-busting portion too.
Chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice-cream, £4.95, was slightly warmed and the sponge had a light feel and texture. It had a good fudgey flavour.
Nino’s is a restaurant that stands out from the crowd and the excellent staff seem to really care about enhancing your dining experience.
Address: Nino's Jesmond, 1-2 Holly Avenue West, Jesmond, Newcastle, NE2 2AR. Tel: 0191 281 6441.
Open: Daily 11.30am to 10pm.
First impressions: Smart, contemporary new Italian restaurant just off busy Osborne Road.
Style, design and furnishings: Light, airy space. Modern feel to décor with wooden floors, cream seating, framed 50s-style prints. And sayings dotted around the walls.
Cuisine: Italian with a modern twist.
Service: Friendly staff a big hit and they stamp their personality on the place.
Value: Good. Especially their happy hour specials offering two starters for £5.95, pizza/pasta for £5.95, plus two glasses of wine for £5.95.
Disabled facilities: Accessible.