Walking into Nicola’s in the Old Market you feel as if you have stumbled upon a little café on the streets of Venice, Italy. With only about ten tables, and a backroom hidden by a black curtain, you are taken to a different land where you instantly feel the warmth of a European dining experience. Opened since 2003, Nicola’s in the Old Market is becoming a staple in the Italian food world of Omaha. It’s a place for a romantic dinner, or a casual business meal. It has the versatility to be both, yet still comfortable and inviting.
For my husband and I’s date night, we sat at a table towards the back and looked out onto the beautiful snow covered patio. We talked about how we’re looking forward to the warmer weather to dine out there under the white lights and open air. For tonight though, we stayed inside and immediately ordered wine and appetizers to warm us up.
We started with the Antipasti Italiano plate which is served with a selection of buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, salami, sun dried tomatoes, asiago cheese, olives, and pickles. It was also served with two pieces of their bruschetta, though I longed for more. The cheeses were fresh and paired well with the cured meats. The meats were mild in their flavor without any one being particularly spicy or overpowering. It was a great start to the meal and paired with their house Pinto Grigio, I was already warming up nicely.
For dinner, my husband ordered one of their seafood dishes, while I opted for a meat entrée. The seafood dish was lobster ravioli served with a light marinara sauce and slight lemon zest. I would love to say that the dish was a perfectly executed dish, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The ravioli itself was wonderfully light and delicate. You can taste its homemade quality and that was extremely appreciated. However, the lobster filling tasted off. It had such a strong lobster taste that even a lover of lobster would find overpowering. Additionally, the cheese used to stuff the raviolis actually tasted a bit sour. The combination didn’t work for me. However, the light marinara sauce was a perfect topping for the dish and brought a welcome acidity to the plate.
The meat dish that I ordered was their highly recommended chicken marsala. I grew up eating chicken marsala in my New York Italian home almost every week. When I saw it on the menu, I was thrilled. And when they placed it in front of me, I was even more thrilled. Placed on a bed of freshly made fettuccine, the chicken sat perfectly in the marsala sauce that was heavy, yet not over done in its weight. The unusual thing about this dish was its sweetness. I have never had a marsala sauce with such a sweet kick. It was odd at first but I found myself going back to it and enjoying it more and more each bite. If you are looking for a traditional marsala dish, this isn’t your choice, but if you are open to interpretation, then go for it – the flavors work and present a unique version of a classic dish.
There were some hits and some misses on this trip, though in the past most of our experiences have been positive and full of flavorful and well-crafted dishes – including their tortellini in ragu sauce, and their fettuccine alfredo. You might not love every dish a restaurant puts out, but when you find the few you like, stick with them and enjoy them. That’s my plan for when I return to Nicola’s.
Nicola’s is located at 521 S. 13th St. (13th and Jackson in the Old Market). (402) 345-8466. Hours: Monday: closed; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday : 11 a.m to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Sunday 5 to 8 p.m. www.nicolasintheoldmarket.com and on Facebook.