It's very rare that a restaurant lasts almost forty years with the same owner. Yet that's what happened with Nino's Pizzeria in Garfield, New Jersey. It's been feeding the community with good food, introducing generations to Southern Italian classics. I've come back to it after a long time away and I'm glad I did.
Nino's is an unpretentious little eatery with only four (albeit big) tables.It's been a take out since the original owner opened up this Harrison Ave. landmark forty years ago. The current owner John, and his brother bought it from the original owner, Nino, hence the name. Unlike other Italian restaurants in the area, this one has a surprise - good Portuguese food. Yes, Nino's has pizza, garlic knots and rice balls, as their fellow pizzerias but they also have frango assado, roasted chicken with vegetables and the famed codfish bacalhao, steamed, fried and roasted.Picadinho , that tasty blend of minced meat and vegetables can also be ordered for a change of pace. The catering menu even includes a roasted suckling pig or leitao along with a seafood rich paella Portuguese style.It can be washed down with the mild cherry tasting soda Guarina from Brazil.
This is a nostalgic trip for me, I used to go to Nino's during my college years for their garlic pizza. It was a gem, standing out, with the perfect ratio of cheese to sauce, studded with tiny bits of minced garlic. Has it changed? I had the plain slice and it was not greasy , unlike slices from other local pizzerias. There was more cheese than sauce, creating a chewy , gooey texture. Their crust is good, more of tart one than than of the usual flat one with puffs. Their calzone is about the best around.It's crust was light and crackly,again not sogged down by oil. The filling is the traditional ricotta, but it was like a ham infused cloud , light and fluffy without the usual cloying salty taste.It came with a tomato dipping sauce which was also perfect in flavor and texture.Many Italian restaurants put out a sauce that's too thick and chunky which slides off the calzone, ending up on the floor, table or lap. Nino's was spot on , and the best part was that it actually tasted like tomatoes - not too sweet or garlicky. The calzone and sauce were a definitely matched pair.
Nino's is worth visiting if you're in the Garfield area. It has an interesting mix of Portuguese and Italian food, all tasty and good. Visit it if you're craving pizza, pasta or bacalhao.
300 Harrison Ave #2
Lodi New Jersey 07644
Hours 10 AM to Midnight