This week marked the soft opening of Ristorante Nicola, the "sister" restaurant of Nicola's Ristorante Italiano in the Shops of Legacy in Plano. Located in the Preston Commons office building, the new restaurant occupies what once was a bank lobby. Like the Legacy location, Ristorante Nicola features a large antipasto display case, an open kitchen and homemade pasta and sauces. So what's different about the Park Cities location other than the inverted name? The most notable difference is in the décor. While the Legacy restaurant features rustic iron chandeliers and patterned tile, Restaurant Nicola boasts glossy Murano chandeliers so enormous that we wondered how anyone would clean them. The main dining room is lined with burgundy and gold floral tapestries, and the adjoining Milano Room has audio and video equipment.
During our recent long lunch, we tasted several dishes from Executive Chef Luigi Iannuario, the former chef of five Bice Group restaurants. Most of the menu comes from the Legacy restaurant, but there are plans to add more protein dishes. The menu is already extensive, with plenty of seafood, meat and pasta options.
Our lunch began with an assortment of antipasto and focaccia. The Focaccia Siciliana was a nice combination of tomatoes, pine nuts and basil on top of fresh flatbread. The arugula and beet salad that followed was refreshing and topped with butternut squash, goat cheese and pomegranate.
Our main courses included pasta, salmon and delicious potato gnocchi. Covered in savory cherry tomato sauce, the tender gnocchi with bits of mozzarella and basil chiffonade were hard to resist. But we had to try at least a bite -- just a bite -- of everything, so we sampled the Casarecci Alla Bolognese, a hearty blend of meat sauce and thick, hollow noodles. The sauce was rich and the meat was tender, but we found the pasta a little too al dente for our liking. The Dijon- and pistachio-crusted salmon was silky, and the Dijon flavor complemented the fish without overwhelming it. By the time we had tried all the entrees, we were wondering if there was room for dessert, but luckily, the portions were small. The apple tart was accompanied by gelato, and the berry salad featured a marsala cream sauce.
The menu is priced right for the Park Cities crowd, and most entrees are came in the $20-30 range. With its large patio and close proximity to several churches, Ristorante Nicola hopes to attract large weekend crowds, and there are plans to introduce a Sunday brunch menu in the next few weeks. There's also a large lounge area, and the bar features specialty cocktails like blood orange margaritas and lemon thyme mojitos. Guess no drink menu can be complete now without a signature mojito, but they're going to need the signature drinks and posh bar if they're going to lure the Park Cities crowd. That, and enough valet parking to show off the Bentleys and Porsches. Look's like Ristorante Nicola has a promising future.