One of the first images to enter my brain last Sunday morning came to me courtesy of an email from Living Social. They were offering a deal for Yanni’s Too, a place known for its fried calamari, and the picture accompanying the sales pitch became my obsession and inspiration for the day. Crispy looking golden brown rings and tentacles… I needed some, but had no desire to drive south and dine riverside. I explored my options, beginning, and happily ending, in my own neighborhood – Nicole’s Restaurant. All I had was a 5 mile run to get through first.
Run finished, I quickly called Nicole’s to make sure they still had tables seated at 8:00 on a Sunday. I never want to be that person who comes in on a quiet night and keeps staff hanging around. I was assured that they still were doing business and invited to please stop by. On my arrival I was offered a nice deuce in the front and settled in with the menu and a basket of warm bread accompanied with good quality olive oil and an olive tapenade.
I was hungry and went a little crazy ordering the fried calamari, the eggplant rollatini and an intriguing sounding Brussels sprouts Caesar salad. After considering a bottle of wine, with the option to bring home what I didn’t finish, I talked myself down and went with a glass of chianti which satisfied me perfectly.
The calamari was terrific. It was piping hot, crispy and not oily in the slightest. The accompanying sauce was different and enjoyable, but I’m pretty simple and would have been equally pleased with a marinara sauce on the side.
The eggplant was tender, completely devoid of bitterness and wonderfully smoky from the oozing cheese. Again, the presentation is a little different with only some roasted red peppers topping the eggplant, rather than the more typical bath of red sauce. Tasty.
The salad was a unique spin on Caesar – a feat that is not easily accomplished, but I didn’t really taste the classic Caesar notes of garlic, cheese and anchovy as I had expected. The anchovies were white which, in my opinion, gives a sharper, more vinegary taste. I liked the salad more when I finished it up the next day as part of my lunch. It seemed to have mellowed out a bit.
I wrapped things up with an indulgent slice of chocolate cheesecake – 5 miles, people. I had just run 5 miles. Belly full, $50 + tip lighter, I slept like a well fed baby. Although I don’t get to Nicole’s often enough, it’s nice to know they continue to offer a consistently creative menu that never fails to provide comfort and quality.