Nicola’s Ristorante

Where to Eat Now 2011
I’ve tried to replicate the moody sensuality of Nicola’s carnaroli risotto—a spellbinding dream of short-grained Italian rice, grilled lobster, and cauliflower ringed by a moat of cacciucco sauce (seafood, tomatoes, and red wine). So far I’ve been met with little more than a confirmation that great chefs have a gene that I’m missing. Chef de Cuisine Joel Molloy’s risotto—whether it’s this or one of the many variations (the velvety mushroom trilogy is another favorite)—is but one of the reasons the house is constantly rocking. Pristine greens are another. An underrated companion to the elite handmade pastas and excellent second course plates of meat and fish, they come dressed in a gauzy citronette with prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano; paired with grilled fennel, pancetta, and a poached egg; or beside a round of Boucheron goat cheese and apple vinaigrette. With its exposed brick and white tablecloths, the vaulted two-story dining room lit for intimacy and cocktail dresses is a place to share a luscious Barolo and food marked by effusive aromas and dazzling melodic sensibilities. Perhaps a cannellini stew with baby octopus and Italian sausage to start, a flawless pan-seared duck breast or monk fish second, and most definitely the lemon panna cotta or strawberries submerged in Prosecco zabaione to finish. Or both. Definitely both.
1420 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine
(513) 721-6200
Rank Last Year: 4
Photograph by Ryan Kurtz
Originally published in the March 2011 issue.

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