Nicky’s Italian Café has been a family owned and operated restaurant since 2001 when Bob and Laura Barbera opened it. Nestled on the ground level behind Vineyard Electronics in Vineyard Haven, the atmosphere is casual and décor festive. With light-pink tiled floors and Christmas lights twinkling, you might imagine yourself at a quaint cucina in the North End.
The self-proclaimed most romantic seat in the house is known as the “love nest,” a corner table for two with upholstered armchairs, which I had the pleasure of dining at, with my brother.
Dinner kicks off with herbed focaccia bread and olive oil, but not just plain olive oil here. Do you want to dunk your warm bread in the Classic Italian Herb flavor? Lemon? Picante? Or perhaps the attention-grabbing, extra spicy Nero’s Revenge? Intrigued by the citrus option, I chose it, and loved it. Fine herbs balance the initial zesty blast.
The menu boasts Italian comfort food, with all homemade sauces: Chicken Cacciatore, Pasta Puttanesca, Sausage and Spinach Alfredo, Chicken Marsala, Veal Piccata, Shrimp Scampi, and more.
Appetizers include Clams Toscano with spicy Italian sausage, garlic, and onion in a tomato-chardonnay broth, or the popular Clams Gorgonzola, littlenecks on the half shell with tangy bleu cheese and pancetta. Jumbo baked mushrooms stuffed with cheese and sausage sit in a creamy Alfredo sauce that makes you want to ask for more bread.
In the kitchen, Mr. Barbera and son Nick whip up signature specialty dishes as well. Tender braised pork shanks are served with Parmesan grits and beef tenderloin is topped with rich Gorgonzola butter.
Finish your meal with coffee, tea, espresso, or cappuccino, and try one of Ms. Barbera’s house-made desserts. She offers the classic tiramisu, her well-known sticky toffee pudding, and spumoni among others. The cannoli are two (otherwise it would be called cannolo) crispy pastry tubes stuffed with a creamy, New York-style ricotta cheese filling, lightly sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and mini-chocolate chips. The ever-changing bread pudding is currently made with festive panettone (an Italian sweet bread loaf) with toasted almonds and amaretto sauce.
Nicky’s offers a special $12.99 dinner option on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays including entrée, salad, and a glass of wine. Though the menu changes you can look forward to something such as rigatoni tossed with sautéed broccoli, roasted garlic in a light olive-oil marinara, choice of house or Caesar salad, and a glass of Chardonnay or Cabernet. For $14.99 (which also includes salad and a glass of wine) you might find something like chicken Parmesan over linguini, and for $16.99 braised short ribs with creamy polenta.
Nicky’s is open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays at 5:30 pm. The restaurant is closed Christmas Eve and day, and New Year’s Day. No longer BYOB, Nicky’s now serves beer and wine.