When entering Nick’s Homestyle restaurant, one is enveloped by a warm bouquet of buttery oil, bread and a friendly, casual atmosphere.
As my smiling hostess leads me to a table, I search for, but do not find, the traditional Italian decor I am expecting. There are no tables covered in tassled cloth, and only one chandelier in sight. On the drinks menu there is a black and white photo of a marble sculpture, yet even this reference to the Italian Renaissance era feels like a parody next to the modern menu design.
Yes, everything feels very nontraditional. I am seated on steel matte gray chair at a dark table softly lit by a hanging industrial light. As the menu is placed on the table I eagerly pick it up and scan it for the pasta I am craving.
The first thing I see is the logo for Nick’s, which features a pizza pie being lifted by a pair of angel wings. Again, this sort of artwork seems to be making a joke of the Renaissance culture and history of Italy. As my eyes scan the page, my hopes of having pasta tonight fall. I see the page is full of pizza.
It is a little disappointing, but mostly because I was set on a traditional Italian meal when I came in. I suppose pizza does fall under the heading of Italian cooking. Maybe I am judging too harshly, I think, as I flip the menu over.
My spirits are lifted as I find a more traditional Italy on the front page. My server arrives and I gladly make a fool of myself, stumbling through pasta names like orecchiette and gnocchi to figure out what to order.
I decide on the bucatini carbonara, which my server says is a creamy pasta dish with egg yolk, bacon pieces and mint. The first bite gives me what I had hoped for. I can taste the homestyle preparation in the handmade noodles and cracked pepper. There is a deep, savory flavor that could have been improved by the few leaves of mint, which are unfortunately left off my plate. The bacon pieces are in a smoky class all on their own, leaving me wishing I had ordered a plate of it.
Looking for the washroom, I take a walk, passing the dining table with the one chandelier above it. The next 10 steps take me through a bar and into a recreation room complete with a pool table. I can’t shake the American feel of this half of the restaurant, and the artwork is not helping.
On one wall there are faded family photos, and the people in the picture do have a distinct Italian features. But across the restaurant there are photos of what looks like the Brooklyn Bridge.
Extremely confused, I break down and ask my server what is going on with the origins of this place.
She explains that the American artwork is all from Nick’s close friends, who live in the New York area. The family photos are from Nick’s wife, whose maiden name is Guido and whose family is from Italy. When she married Nick and they decided to open a restaurant, it had to be Italian, but the decor inserts Nick’s Staten Island flare.
Nick’s serves pizza by the slice (which is also delicious) and has a half-off tap beer and wine deal, Monday through Saturday, from 10 p.m. until midnight.
Nick’s has a new take on the Italian/American experience, and I recommend it to anyone looking for well-prepared food and a friendly, fun atmosphere.
Collegian A&E Writer Sierra Cymes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sierra_cymes.