Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 09 February 2012
Nick’s: A Restaurant Review

Nick’s Pizza – Family Style Restaurant
1814 2nd Avenue Between 93rd St & 94th St, Manhattan
212 987-5700
Getting There: 6 to 96th Street

Italian food really needs no introduction when it comes to the New York City dining scene. It is no surprise to anyone that Manhattan island and its surrounding boroughs house some of the most authentic and regional fare from Italy. Many of these eateries charge top dollar for their menu selections, while making guests sit on long lines because of their historic celebrity. Or worse- make it impossible to get a reservation. But uptown, on a nondescript block of 2nd Avenue, clouded by the construction of a certain subway line, sits Nick’s Pizza – Family Style Restaurant, a neighborhood gem of a restaurant that is passionate about keeping the traditional ‘Italian’ alive with great food, zero pretentiousness, and most important- reasonable prices.

Our group choose to visit Nick’s on a Friday evening for an early dinner. Having each lived in the Upper East Side in the past we knew about the 2nd Avenue subway construction project and its impact on the area. In it’s current state, it’s clear the city is well behind schedule, leaving this section of the neighborhood in a state of disarray. Many of the businesses must rely on makeshift signs hanging from scaffolding to display the existence of their business. As we approached Nick’s we saw the exact opposite. The outside sign was present and well lit. And once we made our way inside, the place was jam packed and a sigh of relief washed over us in a cool wave, as it appeared one of our favorite neighborhood spots was alive and well. 

The well lit, classic corner joint may have been busy but they still had space for our party of three. As we walked through the front room of Nick’s we spotted full families, people on dates, and groups of friends eating and drinking. A few minutes after being sat we were greeted by a waiter, who was both friendly and filled with a wealth of information with regard to the menu. But before we would eat, a drink was in order. One of the prime factors for heading to Nick’s is the seemingly below market prices on tasty table wines. Our group was made up of “red” fans so we ordered the first of many bottles priced between $15-$20 Dollars.

As the first glass of wine reached its last sip we began to order our first meal selections. Nick’s’ menu options are made to be shared, family style. With a dearth of family style Italian options in Manhattan, Nick’s has become our go-to restaurant for their massive, pass around the table portions. We started off will a full order of their ‘Cold Antipasto’ ($20). This dish screamed variety and provided our party with a little bit of everything. There were two distinct salad greens, with a bed of caprese between them. The cheeses on the hulking plate were at their peak of freshness, while the dressing on each of the salads helped to elevate the individual flavors without overtaking each ingredient. The salads were a perfect compliment to the bowls of freshly baked rolls delivered to each table. Crispy on the outside and warm on the inside, the waiters are standing by with extras because there is simply no way that you’ll be satisfied with just one.

Once the appetizer plates were removed, a fresh bottle of house red landed on the table to our joy. And after another round of toasts we put in our main dish orders. Our group wanted to keep the trend of variety going by choosing both meat and seafood family style dishes. We decided on a full order of Nick’s well known “chicken parmesan”($22) and a single order of the “bowtie shrimp and asparagus”($12). The waiter quickly put in our order and after a short wait and another glass of wine the main dishes arrived. In keeping with the tradition of family style dining, the serving size was quite large, especially for the low price. Even the single order of shrimp and asparagus was heaping, looked stunning, and tasted even better. Nick’s does not skimp on ingredients, as their was an even shrimp to asparagus and pasta ratio. The combination of freshly prepared pasta, asparagus, and plum tomatoes yielded a deliciously perfect bite each time. Chicken parmesan is known the world over, yet somehow it’s not easy to get it just right. Nick’s keeps it basic with a sauce that is fresh yet sweet and tangy and each thin slice of meat is tender and juicy. But most importantly the cheese isn’t overly piled on which can cause stringy slices, thereby dulling the flavor.

If you crave delicious Italian food, but want to avoid the long waits and high prices associated with some of the more well known Manhattan haunts, then you need to head to the Upper East Side. Nick’s embodies all that is right with the New York City food scene, and has been around long enough to prove they are doing something right. And hey, did I mention that the wine is very reasonably priced? 

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