Review: Nicola’s Neighborhood Special

One of my colleagues told me several weeks ago about Nicola’s Neighborhood Special.  I sort of blew it off– until I went to Nicola’s and ate at the bar one evening as I helped entertain out-of-town work guests.  We had what is essentially the special– and it was out-of-this world amazing.

The special?  Nicola’s famous bolognese (which I had had at Via Vite with tortellini– delicious!– but is served at Nicola’s with tagliatelle) and a small house salad.

The price? $13 (usually $26).

We’ve now gone twice for this special, and I’m convinced it’s one of the best deals in town right now.  The meal (which can only be eaten at the bar) starts off with an amuse bouche– lately, it’s been a shot of their yellow heirloom tomato gazpacho, alongside salmon mousse or tuna.   The gazpacho, though it has a heavy shot of cream in it, is somehow light and refreshing.  Both the salmon and the tuna, served on a crostini, tasted fresh and a bit summery– I somehow associate raw fish with summertime.

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Next, the salad– it’s simple greens, dressed in a perfect balsamic vinaigrette, on top of bright red tomatoes, with plenty of cracked pepper.  It’s simple, but delicious.

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The highlight of the meal?  The bolognese.  Terry and I have both said this before– we generally do not order meat sauce in restaurants.  We do not go ga-ga over it.  We don’t crave it.  This is different.  It is delicious– rich, tomatoe-y, seasoned perfectly. Topped with a generous sprinkling of parmigiano Reggiano, it’s filling and delicious (and I always have leftovers).  It has the right balance of meat, sauce and pasta– it’s just plain perfect.

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So sit at the bar, order a glass of wine– the meal, with the glass of wine and tip, generally runs about $27 per person for the two of us.  There are a lot of regulars, and we always strike up good conversation with them and the excellent bar staff.  Remember, this is Mondays only, and only at the bar.

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