On a perfect September evening, the Cincinnati bailliage held its annual Fall Dinner at Nicola’s Ristorante, a fabulous fine-dining Italian restaurant situated in the city’s historic “Over the Rhine” neighborhood. While preparing to write this article for Cuvée, I reminisced about numerous heart-warming memories of dining in this cherished eatery over the last couple of decades. Every visit makes me feel like Norm entering the “Cheers” bar where everybody knows your name and are grateful that you came to spend the evening with them.
The restaurant was founded by Nicola Pietoso and his wife Maureen in a part of Cincinnati that was just beginning the transition from a run-down, poverty-stricken part of town to what today is a mecca for culinary, architectural, and social excellence. Mr. Pietoso garnered numerous awards for his dishes that were steeped in his Italian heritage and also for the “over the top” service that was the hallmark of his staff. Recently, he has turned over the reins to his son, Cristian, who is also the Executive Chef/Owner of three other highly acclaimed Italian restaurants in the Cincinnati area..
On such a lovely night, we were able to have our reception on the outdoor outdoor patio. Flutes of Bisol Prosecco Valdobbiadenne Superior 2021 set the tone for the evening. Appetizers served by an attentive staff included Tomato Tarts on Puff Pastry with Pesto, Traditional Beef Tartare on “Carta Musica” with Calabrian Chiles, and Melon Gazpacho Shooters with Crab Salad. Despite being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of city life, the patio had the feel of an Italian country oasis. Once we were tucked inside the warm, cozy main dining room, Bailli George Elliott introduced guests and shared the calendar of future events.
The five-course dinner was expertly paired with wines chosen by Echanson Provincial Mary Horn and her wine committee. The courses included Beet Soup with Créme Fraiche, Hazelnuts, and Italian Sturgeon Caviar paired with Scaia Rosato Veneto 2022; Alpina Salad with Endive, Compressed Pairs, Glazed Walnuts and Gorgonzola Cream paired with Russiz Superior Sauvignon Blanc 2021; Lamb Ragu Taleggio Agnolotti paired with Sesti Brunello Montalcino 2017; Roasted Mediterranean Bronzino paired with Inama ‘I Palchi’ Foscarina Grand Cuvee Soave Classico 2019; and Green Apple Cake with Apple Gelée and Foam, Caramel Sauce and Candied Walnuts paired with Centorri Moscato Provincia di Pavia 2022. All courses were designed uniquely for the Chaîne event.
At the end of the evening, Bailli Elliott introduced Chef Cristian Pietoso and the Nicola’s staff, and thanked Vice Conseiller Gastronomique Chuck Hong as well as Echanson Provincial Mary Horn for orchestrating this one-of-a-kind event. I suspect that many of our members will come under the spell of the “Norm effect” as they return to this excellent restaurant time and time again.
Graig Smith, Vice Chargé de Presse