Nino’s Is a Hidden Chicken Parm Gem (Only To Me)
After almost 3 years of doing Midtown Lunch, I feel like I’ve walked down every single block of Midtown (multiple times.) And while the site would be nothing without your recommendations, and tips about new places, I thought there weren’t very many older places I didn’t know about. So imagine my surprise last week, when (based on a recommendation in the comments) I walked into Nino’s to discover a pretty cool, old school Italian place that I somehow managed to avoid in over 1000 days of Midtown Lunch’ing. So embarrassing. Even my wife was like “oh… you went to Nino’s? I’ve been to that place a million times.” How did I miss this? Aside from the obvious… it’s not Asian food.
I can’t even blame it on the location somehow being a random hidden block… it’s on 46th btw. 5+6th (!!!) the same block as Cafe Cello, Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart, Moshe’s Falafel, Kosher Deluxe, Ranch 1, and (at one time) Rangole & House of Pita. I’ve walked down this street one or two times…
Nino’s is a take out, fast food Italian place, masquerading as a sit down restaurant. I say “masquerading” because they have a take out area in the front, and their prices are low enough that even if you sit down and eat in the back, you’ll probably end up spending less than $10. Oh, in case you haven’t figured it out, Nino’s is far from being a hidden gem. The place was packed. We would have had to wait for a table (you line up along the wall) but there were seats at the counter- so we sat down right away.
Since the comment was on the 2008 Readers Poll Chicken Parm post, I ordered their chicken parm sandwich, but with two other friends in tow- we also tried the lasagna, and one of their pizzas.
The lasagna was not bad at all… a good size portion, and it came with bread. For $9, it was a good value for a sit down restaurant- but one of the more expensive items on the Nino’s menu. The sauce was nice an tangy (if you’re into that) and there was a lot of it (if you’re into that.) Good for a little bread dipping action.
Their pizza is served in individual sized portions… probably around 7 or 8 inches, and while they are plenty big for one, they are probably not big enough for two (unless you are a lightweight, or supplement the lunch with a *gasp* salad or something.) But at $6.50 to $8 it doesn’t really matter if you share or not. The pizza is described as “pan” pizza, and while it’s slightly thicker than normal pizza, it is not a Pizzeria Uno monstrosity. It was ok, but the crust was a little too cakey (does that make sense?) for my taste… the flavor and toppings were good (I got the fresh tomato sauce, ricotta & basil topped with mozzarella) but if I’m going to do pizza for lunch, I much prefer the thin, standard New York slice (which is also cheaper.)
Finally the chicken parm… easily the highlight of the lunch- I’m not sure if it was made fresh to order, but it certainly tasted like it was. The bread was nice and warm (perfectly balance between soft and crunch), the chicken was well seasoned, and most importantly the bread to meat to cheese to sauce ratio was absolutely perfect. I think crowning it best in Midtown would be going out on a limb, but it is certainly better than the other two options in the vicinity (Little Italy & Park Italian).
So hopefully I’ve redeemed myself by adding Nino’s into the Midtown Lunch canon. For those who have never been… definitely check it out. For those who have known about it forever? Sorry I exposed your “hidden” gem.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Sit down Italian restaurant with take out prices
- Good solid Italian food
- A huge, great looking sandwich menu. I might have to go back for a few of those…
- A solid chicken parm, with the perfect meat to bread to cheese to sauce ratio
- Their red sauce is tangy
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- It’s not exceptional Italian food, just good
- If you want to eat in, there is often a wait (and it gets pretty cramped in there)
- Their red sauce is tangy
- I don’t like “pan pizza”
- Apparently their pastas are not good, and usually overcooked (probably because they pre cook the pasta, hold it in giant bowls, and then “re-cook” it in the sauce when the particular dish is ordered)
Nino’s Trattoria, 39 w. 46th Street (btw. 5+6th), 212-719-4015