By Jano Tantongco
Osteria Da Nina owner Nino Antuzzi knew since he was 13 years old that he wanted to be in the restaurant business.
And when he opened Osteria Da Nino in September 2003, he added to his repertoire a prime destination for Italian cuisine with a Sardinian focus.
Antuzzi added that he and his restaurants use only the freshest local ingredients. In his creation, he cherishes simple dishes with relatively few ingredients.
“You got to have a great ingredient before you start cooking,” he said. “Simplicity is a very difficult thing to achieve.”
The Baked Artichokes ($13) are baby artichokes baked with an herb bread crumb crust. They are pulled apart and easily fall apart as one takes each bite. The overall dish has an undeniable Mediterranean flavor that makes this a light, yet hearty appetizer.
The Zucchine Fritte ($9) are not your ordinary zucchini sticks. They are lightly fried with a semolina dusting, served with garlic aioli, that retains the fresh zucchini taste while adding just a touch of crispiness.
The Nino Insalata ($12) features semolina dusted calamari, red onion, green beans, lemon vinaigrette, baby arugula, romaine lettuce and halved grape tomatoes. A truly delightful and upbeat salad, the salad is a healthy gateway to the rest of the meal.
For a heavier appetizer, try the Melenzane Parmigiana ($12) to go back to home-cooked basics, with a rich marinara sauce adorned on a soft, baked eggplant that blends all the traditional Italian tastes you’re sure to love.
Going even further, the Italian Mac and Cheese ($12) serves up a three-cheese blend of parmigiana reggiano, gorgonzola and mozzarella, mixed with truffle oil, with ditalini pasta, mushrooms, all topped with an organic fried egg. The truffle oil underscores the dish with earthy undertones that balance the medley of cheeses.
For a taste of home, the Hay and Straw ($19) will bring you back to your childhood home with spinach and semolina strand pasta, with wild mushrooms, truffle oil and cream sauce. The plate is rich with a chewy pasta that pleases on multiple fronts.
To bring in the season, try the special Pumpkin Ravioli ($28), which is made with a sage and butter sauce, with bits of walnuts. The dish marries hints of cinnamon with a traditional ravioli for a unique, autumnal pasta dish.
The Pollo Limone ($23) offers a floured chicken cutlet topped with a lemon parsley sauce and garlic string beans. The lemon flavor is delicately added in and doesn’t overpower the dish.
Touches of olive oil shine through to complement the sauce.
Serving up pan-seared filets with salsa verde, the Branzino ($28) adds roasted cauliflower with olives. Taking a bite of the lightly crispy fish with the olive juxtaposes the mild, delicate flavor of the branzino with the potent, yet subdued olive taste.
For a magnificent dessert, the Apple Turnover ($8) is topped with vanilla gelato, paired with raspberry and custard sauce that create a cornucopia of fruity and creamy flavors.
The Tiramisu ($8) is also a great post-meal treat that brings together mascarpone cream and espresso-dipped lady fingers for a moist cake that will replace your after-dinner cup.