Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Osteria Nino: A Touch Of Rome In Burlington
My first experience at this new restaurant began with a dish of Meatballs that thoroughly impressed me, being tender and flavorful, a delicious melange of taste and texture. First impressions make a significant difference, and the meatballs well set the stage for the rest of the culinary delights at this restaurant.
Curiously, I've heard almost nothing about this restaurant from my food loving friends. I don't know anyone else who has dined here. Despite being open for about seven weeks, it seems to have remained under the radar but it's time to spread the word, to give some deserved attention to Osteria Nino., a new Roman-inspired restaurant in Burlington.
3rd Avenue Burlington complex, which is also home to Wegmans, The Bancroft, Kings, Tony C's, and others. It's easy to get to Osteria Nino and there is plenty of available free parking.
Nino is open for lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant is medium-sized, with a bar, dining room and outside patio (pictured above). It has a casual and comfortable ambiance, and would be good for a date, a family gathering or a group of friends after work. I've dined there six times so far, mostly for lunch though I have had dinner there once as well as attended one of their wine tasting events.
The General Manager is Sam Alberts, who also spent time working and cooking in Rome, eventually becoming part of the Rome Sustainable Food Project. Back in the U.S., Sam has worked at Italian restaurants in New York and Boston. I've spent some time chatting with Sam about Osteria Nino and found him to be personable and passionate, as well as very knowledgeable in Italian wines.
There are eight beers on draft, all by New England producers, and plenty of other choices available by the bottle, including many other local, artisan favorites. Peroni, a popular Italian beer, is only $4, their least expensive beet on the list.
To be true to their Italian focus, their wine list contains only Italian wines, and as I've said multiple times before, I respect restaurants willing to restrict their wine lists in such a fashion. Sam mentioned that there hasn't been much push back from their customers about their wine list, noting that their servers are well trained to handle common customer objections, and to lead them to wines which should appeal to their preferences. Italian wine is so diverse, there certainly are wines that will please any palate.
There are about 16 wines available by the glass, from $7-$19, and over 90 wines by the bottle, with plenty under $50. There is a nice diversity on the list, from Lambrusco to Franciacorta, Chardonnay to Arneis, Primitivo to Dolcetto. Mark-ups on some of the wines can be about three times retail so seek out the more unusual wines as those are generally the better values. Sam Alberts told me that two of the best values on the list include the Pigato Maje ($44), a white made from Vermentino, and the Lamezia Rosso Statti ($38), a blend of Greco Nero, Gaglioppo and Nerello Cappuccio.
The Lunch Menu has Salads & Soups, Panini & Plates, Pasta, Mozzarella, Pizza, and Sides, with most items priced from $8-$13, making it very affordable. The Dinner Menu has Snacks, Salads & Small Plates, Large, Pasta, and Sides, and most items are also priced from $8-$13 except for the Large dishes which range from $18-$35, with a couple outliers. Every day, about 5-6 items on the menus will change, dependent on seasonality and availability. Every time I've eaten here, I've had to think about what to choose, as several dishes appealed to me. As I've dined here six times, I've been able to sample many different dishes.
Sourcing is very important to them, and they never order more than two day's supply of any item. Most everything they source is local, and they firmly believe that local usually tastes better, For example, they order some bread from the Nashoba Brook Bakery in West Concord and other bread from LaVallee's Bakery in Waltham. All of their meat is from Massachusetts farms, and one of their primary suppliers is Andy Carbone, who raises grass fed cattle. Carbone winters his animals twice, unless many others who only do it once. As such. the cattle are about 26-28 months old when they are slaughtered, which means the meat is likely to taste better. They also use two different seafood purveyors, including Sea To Table and North Coast Seafoods, purchasing fish from the waters off New England and New York. This is the type of sourcing that appeals to me, and should appeal to you as well.
Nashoba Brook Bakery. The bread has been toasted, has a great texture, and the savory meatballs really please. A great choice for a sandwich, and it comes with house-made potato chips.
Facebook page to see the next event. Sam leads the tasting, bringing his extensive knowledge of Italian wines.
I attended their "A Taste of Tuscany", where we sampled the 2012 Valdipiatta Rosso di Montepulciano, 2011 Campi Nuovi Montecucco and 2012 Sesta di Sopra Rosso di Montalcino. Though I liked all three wines, my favorite was clearly the third wine, which impressed with its complexity and depth of flavor. There was plenty of tasty snacks to accompany the wine, and I think these events are a great way to expand your experience and knowledge of Italian wines. I'm sure I'll be stopping by at future events.
I heartily recommend that you check out Osteria Nino and enjoy their pizza to pasta with a glass of Italian wine or an Italian-inspired cocktail. Sit on the patio or grab a seat in front of the pizza ovens. I'm sure you'll enjoy the experience. For now, it's more of a hidden treasure but the word will get out soon enough. Maybe I will see you there as I plan on dining there regularly.