Houston Feature
Stacy, our resident Houston critic, visits Nino’s!

Nino’s has to be my favorite Italian restaurant in Houston. I first fell in love with it when I was about 13 and started hitting the bar/bat mitzvah circuit pretty hard. One of my friends had a “rehearsal-type” dinner there for the out of town guests. How very Kosher. And while we had a set menu, one dish was fortunately included that changed my life forever – the Veal Vincent.

Since then, I’ve frequently dined at Nino’s, the Mandola family’s flagship restaurant, which has two sister restaurants (Vincent’s & Grappino di Nino) within the same triangular lot, which forms to create a sort of makeshift Italian village. It’s quite charming, and quite delicious. And though there are differences between the menus at all three, they’ll gladly bring you over something from one of the others.

It’s no surprise that for my 25th birthday, I decided to indulge in a meal from Nino’s. Normally, I order their Aglio Arrosto (on the menu at Vincent’s) for an appetizer. Whole roasted garlic with creamy cambozola cheese and warm focaccia bread. Pop out those cloves of roasted garlic, spread it on your bread with some of that cheese, and ingest! Pure heaven. This time though, my brother-in-law suggested we order a pizza. I don’t stray too often from my usual favorites, but this time, I’m glad I did. Fresh tomato, mozzarella, olive oil and basil made this margherita pizza simple but delicious. And though I could have used it a bit more crispy throughout, the dough was soft, crisp on the edges, and perfectly tasty.

The Veal Vincent is a house favorite at Nino’s, and like I said above, it changed my life. I’d feel sorry for the baby cows if they weren’t so fucking delicious. And words can’t even describe how good Nino’s Veal Vincent is. Tender, thin slices of veal breaded in parmigiano, sautéed in a lemon butter sauce, and served with artichoke hearts and a side of their equally amazing fettuccine alfredo. Surprisingly, I always find the veal richer than the fettuccine. Rarely do I finish all 3 pieces and gosh darnit, I try my damndest! But holy hell if it isn’t incredible. Melt-in-your-mouth-like-buttah good.

And talk about generous portions! $19 for 3 veal medallions and a heaping side of fettuccine. Which, I must say, is hands-down the best fettucine I’ve ever had. It’s so rich and creamy but at the same time, very light. I find no difficulty in consuming the entire side plate they give you. Although I wish I did.

If I don’t order the Veal Vincent (which is rare), I get the Penne ala Vodka – short tube shaped pasta and lump crabmeat in a tomato cream vodka sauce that’s so perfectly done, I wish they would bottle and sell it! Like the fettucine, it’s rich yet light so again, you can eat a lot of it without feeling stuffed.

And although this pasta could stand on its own, the crab is a nice addition – cooked perfectly and generous in amount. It still might be a little overpriced at $15 dollars, but I’m telling you, it’s worth every penny.

I don’t order dessert too often here because I’m usually full by the end of the meal, but it was my birthday after all! And Nino’s lets you pick any one of their made-fresh-daily desserts for FREE on your special day. They also sing to you which is a little Olive Garden-esque for me but nice nonetheless. I picked the raspberry chocolate tart; it was good, but nothing special. Still, its light, flaky crust and fresh fruity berries were the perfect ending to my carb heavy meal.

Nino’s never disappoints. The food is amazing, the service always accommodating and friendly, and with two other restaurants on the premises to choose from, you really can’t go wrong! Plus there’s also Pronto Cucinino a little ways down the road which offers curbside service and easy take-out options. If you haven’t yet made it to any of these Mandola eateries, I highly suggest you start with Nino’s. Order the Veal Vincent, close your eyes, and prepare for ecstasy.

2817 W. Dallas
Houston, TX 77520


Eric July 25, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Something about this review really rubs me the wrong way, and I’m not quite sure what it is. Maybe it’s that the author’s high opinion of Nino’s doesn’t match the descriptions of the food, the photos or my own limited experiences there. To me, it seems like Nino’s serves really boring, overpriced, Italian-American comfort food to well heeled people who either don’t know or don’t care that there are lots of better, cheaper options available.

Specifically, there’s nothing about penne all vodka that’s improved by crab meat; it’s a classic example of what Alison Cook was ranting about on 29-95 a couple weeks ago, where crab meat is added to a dish to make it “fancy” and thus justify a higher price for a marginal dish. Also, the fettuccine looks like a gloppy mess.

Finally, there’s something kind of silly about a Jewish person who makes fun of another Jew with the “how kosher” crack, then proceeds to devour a plate of veal drowned in butter. Keep kosher or don’t, but the slap, even as a light-hearted attempt at humor, seems really unnecessary.

“Close your eyes, and prepare for ecstasy.” – “That’s what she said!”

    The Mighty Rib July 26, 2011 at 10:09 am

    It was a pleasure chatting via FB about this post Eric. Any and all opinions are welcomed! Thank you for reading.

Stacy July 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Agree to disagree. I think Nino’s has great food, albeit I agree with you on the comfort part. And there are plenty of other Italian restaurants I love as well, it’s just that Nino’s will always be a favorite. I also like Raia’s, Patrenella’s, Da Marco’s, Damian’s, etc. But that’s neither here nor there. As for the crab, I don’t think they’re trying to “fancy” it up. That sauce is amazing and the pasta stands on its own. Crab is just that nice something extra that adds a little more depth to the dish. Bread for the leftover sauce also works quite well. For the fettuccine, I will attribute your “gloppy mess” description to my iPhone’s poor photo taking capabilities. I try to bring my Nikon D3100 with me most places but more often than not, I find myself dining out without it. Therefore, an iPhone must suffice. I will insist that if you haven’t tried their fettuccine, that you do so immediately. Then try and tell me it’s a gloppy mess. And I’m not at all making fun of Jews with my “how kosher” comment. It’s not even an attempt at humor, just a silly remark in reference to how most of my Jewish friends don’t believe in keeping kosher when it comes to good food. That’s all.

Chris July 26, 2011 at 8:10 am

That Office quote was unnecessary.

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