There are few things in the world we enjoy more than bringing friends and family to our favorite Atlanta restaurants. And there's something even more special about introducing family to a time-honored Atlantan-Italian tradition like Nino's.There are few things in the world we enjoy more than bringing friends and family to our favorite Atlanta restaurants. And there's something even more special about introducing family to a time-honored Atlantan-Italian tradition like Nino's. This Cucina has been here since 1968, making it the oldest Italian restaurant in the city. Standing ever so nonchalantly on Cheshire Bridge, not much changes at Nino's over the years—mostly because regulars would never hear of it. Its reputation for authentic Italian cuisine has been passed on through word of mouth—not exactly a dining destination newer Atlantans might discover by passing on the street. After a lingering, candlelit al fresco evening of wine on their patio along with made-to-order Italian family recipes, you may find yourself singing songs of amore to your date, to your waiter, the bus-boy... really, the whole world. Of course, most of that affection should probably be directed toward Antonio Noviello, who has been here since 1981 via the Amalfi coast, and his wife and three daughters.
While every Italian restaurant out there claims to be the "best" and "most authentic," Nino's quietly maintains a loyal longtime following just from word-of-mouth and reputation alone. Not to mention this place just feels like it should be hidden off an alleyway in Italy; it's dark and cozy, with the sounds of opera and the warmth of candle light adding that extra something special to the meal, like a sprinkling of Parmiggiano Reggiano atop your linguine. Celebrities and locals alike appreciate this true Italian cuisine, and that all goes back to the born-and-raised Italian owner and chef who runs the kitchen, Mr. Antonio Noviello. Noviello (or "Tony," as he introduces himself) came to Atlanta in 1980 to work at Nino's as a manager. Two years later, he had bought it. Many of the authentic Italian family recipes are named after Tony's daughters, wife and brother, as well as the original owner, Nino himself. And these recipes are about as close as you can get to the real Italian deal: they come from the cookbooks of Mama Noviello herself. These are family traditions – Tony and his family take a lot of pride in each meal they prepare. Tony and his crew do all of their butchering in-house. And the seafood? The fish is brought in fresh daily and the kitchen crew makes their own cuts. With all of this love and care in the preparation of the meals, each entrée takes at least 20 minutes and is made fresh to order. (The longer wait times are just fine by us, as it means we have extra time to savor that chianti a little bit longer.) And if you choose to dine al fresco, you can enjoy that bottle of wine on their intimate covered patio, enclosed and casually romantic. Start with the Fresh Mussels Posillipo. Take in your surroundings, enjoy your date. And when your main entrée comes to the table (mine: The Zuppe di Pesce—a perfect medley of shrimp, scallops, grouper, and mussels, still in shell, atop a spicy marinara sauce) you'll be reminded why fresh, quality food should take some time. Some effort. Some tradition. Say, like a generation or two of all of the above.
Fresh Mussels Posillipo, $9.50
Penne Gabriela, $18.50
Papperdelle Verde, $19.50
Vitello Romana, $23
Scampi Alla Nino's, $27
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.