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IMG 1404Dianne and I were looking for someplace to have dinner last Friday night, and I suggested that we go to Nino’s to see how they were doing since the Kitchen Nightmares filming that we had attended. As many of you know, the filming and transformation was one of great change for this family-owned Italian eatery, which has been in Bixby Knolls since 1958. With not only changes to the menu, but also many stylistic changes to the décor inside and out, you can see, smell, and feel the difference.

As we walked in the door, we were pleasantly greeted by Carina Cristiano, one of my favorite people in Long Beach, and the force behind many of the changes in the restaurant. When asked where we would like to sit, we opted for one of the big communal tables. I love this type of seating, as it lends itself to meeting and sharing with new people, which is a favorite past time of mine.

We quickly had appetizers in front of us with a bottle of wine, so we got to it. The fried zucchini was as delicious as it has always been: crispy, lightly breaded, and not greasy at all. The homemade blue cheese dressing that accompanied it was also a delight. The Salami Plate with cold cuts, sliced Parmesan, olives, and balsamic fig jam was traditional and fresh, but the Pastuccia was the star of the first course. Made with Hot Italian Sausage, Polenta, Pancetta, and Raisins, it was something new that I have never had before, and I highly recommend it. 

Cold Cut

With very little break in conversation, all the appetizers were finished, and it was time for the main course. This consisted of Ricotta Cavatelli, Cheese Ravioli, and Chicken Marsala. I have had the Chicken Marsala before, and it was also one of the dishes that Chef Ramsey was served and hated due to preparation issues at the beginning of show. Well whatever Chef Ramsey said, it is really good now! The chicken was firm, properly cooked, and the sauce had wonderful flavor.

Chicken Marsala

Cheese Ravioli

The Cheese Ravioli was also tasty, but the star of the night was the Ricotta Cavatelli. Small corkscrew type pasta, made in-house with fresh Ricotta cheese and covered with tomato-braised short rib ragu. The sauce was filled with the amazing short rib flavor and had enough body to cling to the pasta like a shy child on his mother’s leg. Everything about the dish was pleasing from the first bite all the way to the scraping of the dish with a piece of bread. I did not want to not let one morsel go to waste.

I am truly impressed with the quality of the food that Nino’s is putting out. No matter what your previous experiences might have been, you have to go back! Every business needs a kick in the ass from time to time, and it appears that Nino’s got theirs. Thank you to the Cristaino Family for supporting Long Beach and doing what they needed to. There is a reason that this restaurant has been in business since 1958: the food is great, but the family behind it is fantastic!

Until Next Time, Keep Eating Long Beach!

Ninos is located at 3853 Atlantic Ave., (562) 427-1003

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