If you’re looking for a place to eat with character and charm, then boy have I found the place for you.
You see on a typically rainy English day I found myself sat in the car with hanger looming but no idea where to head for lunch. You see my lunch-list repertoire has become a little stagnant of late because I’ve been cooking so much in an attempt to be healthier and whatnot. But lets face it, on rainy days you want comfort food and when people say comfort food what they really mean is carbs, and Nicolino’s is full of them.
Nicolino’s is a charming little Italian joint on Emsworth’s high-street.
The place is small and unassuming, but as you walk inside you’re greeted like one of the family. I was there for lunch pretty much just as the clock struck noon so the place was quiet, however from what I’ve been told, if you’re looking to head out for dinner there, you’ll want to book a table.
Nicolino’s opened its doors in 1993, but before that happened Nicolino had done quite the bit of travelling. He was born in Barletta in South-East Italy and since the age of 15 he has grown up in kitchens. He travelled from Barletta, to Milan, to Lake Maggiore before setting off for English shores. He began his UK career working in the local area of Chichester and Chilgrove and shortly after he opened his own business in Portsmouth.
But since 1993 Nicolino has been settled in Emsworth, and he’s been dominating the number one spot on TripAdvisor ever since.
Nicolino’s menu is expansive with a vast array of meat, fish and vegetarian style dishes.
It was hard to know where to begin so I started of with some Parma Ham and Melon
Because it’s delicious.
And some Polpette.
Lamb meatballs with herbs and spices.
But Nicolino’s took the meatballs one step better…
By adding cheese.
Everybody knows that cheese makes everything better.
The melon was fresh, the ham salty and the meatballs were tender and the sauce flavoursome.
The salad seemed a little out of place but I’ve noticed that literally everywhere in England likes to whack a side salad on everything, and I’m English, and love cucumber, so was willing to overlook this.
For mains I carbo loaded
Parma ham pizza
And I have no idea what I had.
You see when a menu is full of dishes that sound as equally as tasty as one another, I have a pretty hard time choosing. So instead I enlisted the help of the manager (whose name escapes me) to make the tough decision for me. Because getting somebody else to make your decisions when you can’t is what grown ups do.
I know I know.
I’m good at this adulting thing.
In between “Bellissima’s” and “You must eat more!” I managed to steer Mr Manager back on to the task at hand, and after a few questions on what carbs and flavours I wanted, he left the table with a “I know just the thing!”
And boy did he hit the brief.
A deceptive looking bowl which makes you feel like your dinner is small, but is secretly bottomless.
Spoonful after spoonful of bacon, mushrooms, red wine, chilies, cream, tomato, herbs, spices and olives. It was divine, packed a mighty kick, and after having a quick stalk of their menu, I can tell you it was called Lupara.
I can also tell you, it defeated me.
I would have loved to have squeezed in a dessert, but I couldn’t even finish my main yet alone attempt the thought of a sweet treat. The portion sizes are as large as the food is delicious.
Finding places with character can be a challenge.
Customer service is what makes service industries survive and so often you find that staff are a little on edge and struggle to relax around customers because of this. But here? Here you get the sass, service and a sweet smile as the owner tells you to eat more. And we all know I don’t need telling twice…
Nicolinos can be found at 34 North Street, Emsworth, PO10 7DG.