Trattoria San Nicola – A Second Look

by artfuldiner on December 5, 2019

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Pennsylvania, Review, Wining and Dining

Trattoria San Nicola

4 Manor Road

Paoli, Pennsylvania

(610) 695-8990

San Nicola - InteriorTrattoria San Nicola was first reviewed in October 2008. In the interim, the physical plant has changed not at all. The interior boasts distressed stone/brick walls, colorful murals & original works of art, a piazza replete with bubbling fountain, a chef’s room for special parties, and a comfortable bar area.

San Nicola - prosciutto w arugula saladDuring my initial visit, over ten years ago – and even more recently – I found the lusty Italian fare generally well-prepared, attractively presented, reasonably priced, and properly proportioned. A highlight included a starter of Prosciutto con Rucola, arugula tossed with a light balsamic vinaigrette set on a bed of lean, wafer-thin slices of imported prosciutto, with accompanying wedges of sharp provolone cheese providing a feast for both the eye and palate.

The main course was equally satisfying… Branzino (Mediterranean Sea bass) was baked en casserole and simply complemented with olive oil, white wine, and lemon juice. A bevy of sautéed mixed vegetables added a welcome splash of color and contrasting texture.

I did have a number of negative comments during my initial visits, two of which remain something of a problem. First of all, the restaurant has many hard surfaces, so it is quite noisy when filled… which appears to be most of the time. Secondly, the quality of the service remains very much the luck of the draw. On one occasion, it could be spot on; on another, a bit non compos mentis.

Food-wise, pasta continues to be the restaurant’s strong suit. The Penne Gorgonzola, for example, penne pasta sautéed with a cream-tomato sauce garnished with smoked salmon and capers is rich, rich, rich – but, oh, so delicious… And the same may be said for the Spaghetti di Farina Integrale con Polpette, whole wheat spaghetti served up with meatballs braised in tomato sauce.

San Nicola - Veal Pounded ThinInterestingly enough, I found veal to be the restaurant’s Achilles’ heel. The most recent faux pas was a nightly special, veal pounded thin and sautéed with a variety of herbs. Unfortunately, the herbs were entirely too strong and too liberally applied, leaving a rather bitter taste in the mouth. In addition, while the veal was pounded thin, it wasn’t done so uniformly… As a result, when sautéed, some parts were overcooked, others the next thing to raw. A relatively simply dish knocked into a cocked hat.

San Nicola - Involtini di MelanzaneAnd I also wasn’t terribly pleased with the Involtini di Melanzane as well. This starter consisted of lightly battered eggplant rolled around provolone cheese, asparagus, basil, and capers in a garlic tomato sauce. During one of my previous dinners, our party had considered the Melanzane a table favorite. This time around, however, it seemed a mere shadow of its former self and totally lacking in flavor. Go figure.

The problems that plague San Nicola, rather than being rectified, seem to have become exacerbated with time. You may dine well here… you may also dine not so well. The kitchen, in my view, lacks consistency. Among the starters, your best bets are undoubtedly the salads; and arugula appears to be the greenery of choice… go with it and you probably will not be disappointed. Entrée-wise, ordering one of the pastas, in my opinion, puts the odds of success firmly in your favor.

As for the service… hope for the best, but expect…?

 Bon Appétit!


{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: