The experience

I had no idea where we were going for Valentine’s Day, just that we were going very early, like, 4 o’clock.  Ogre had already clued me into plans for later.  Unfortunately, I would not be able to participate because I am on call tonight, but I gave him the green light to take Mina.  As we drove closer, I had a pretty good idea that we’d be eating at Nicola’s, one of my favorite restaurants, and probably my favorite Italian restaurant! 

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We had reservations, so we were seated right away. I was disappointed right away because it was a limited menu.  Limited menu at Nicola’s means no favorite pasta dish.  Oh well.  Our waiter came over and we put in our drink order and he asked us about the kids. He told us they could make pizza or pasta and we chose pasta.  He told us that he’d put that in right away.  Good thing because Benji was a little antsy already!  It was going to be a long dinner!

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We put in our 5 course dinner order and Ogre gave Mina her Valentine’s Day present.  He handed her the flyer we received for Swan Lake and explained to her that they’d be going tonight to the ballet!  Mina was super excited!  She was sad that Benji and I would not be going, but I reassured her that she could tell me all about it and they’d have a great time.

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We entertained Benji by playing “Where’s Benji?” and singing random songs to him.  I was surprised that he actually remained pretty calm. 

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The calamari came out pretty quickly.  Once the food arrived, we were good to go on kid behavior!  Mina and Benji love calamari, so they were busy wolfing that down.  Next out came the salads.  Ogre and I each gave Benji some pears, which was fun treat for Benji. 

Mina was eating slowly, but surely, and for once, it was just fine for her to eat so slowly.  We still had 3 courses left to go!  She was actually a little more misbehaved than Benji, but it wasn’t in a loud, obnoxious annoying everyone around us, so that was okay.  She just was up and out of her chair and had to be reminded to sit in the middle of her chair.  I don’t know what is up with that.  It’s a chronic issue.

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The pasta came out and Ogre was delighted. I ate it begrudgingly.  We offered some to Benji and he totally LOVED it.  He ate quite a bit of it, but was kind enough to share some with me here and there.  He loves to feed food to me.  “Here, Mommy.”  he says and even when it’s gross because he’s hand feeding me something that may or may not have been his mouth already, I oblige.

Next up in our marathon Valentine’s dinner was the Secondi.  Ogre and I switched plates right away, not because they got it wrong, we just decided that I liked veal more than Ogre does and Ogre likes filet more than I do.  Benji apparently likes veal also and ate quite a bit of that also.  I guess he’s a growing boy!

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Now it was the fun part of dinner!  Dessert!  Mina decided that she was going to eat her Sweethearts candy she brought with her instead of dessert.  We challenged her on that a bit.  Really?  Those chalky candies over a chocolate tort or tiramisu??  She insisted.  And Benji insisted, too, that he have some of Mina’s candy.  We allowed her to share the candy as long as he said “please,” which he did. 

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Of course, when dessert came out, all bets were off and both kids dove for the closest spoon to get their share.  Benji even tried to scoot the plate right in front of him, but he had to put a stop to that.  Afterall, tiramisu is quite caffeinated!!

We settled up and headed up 2 hours after we arrived.

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The food

They serve Northern Italian food here.  EXCELLENT Northern Italian food!  They don’t even have a freezer in their restaurant.  All of the pasta is made fresh and the ingredients are fresh and it is undoubtedly noticeable!

Tonight it was a limited menu, which honestly was very disappointing because they did not have my favorite dish.  Boo hoo for me.  We opted for the 5 course fixed price meal; hence, all the food that we would normally not order!

CalamariAs an appetizer, we ordered calamari (remember our children are calamari freaks).  As always, it was very tasty.  The calamari is lightly breaded and is not chewy at all.  They serve it with marinara sauce and an excellent aioli.

Inslata Nicola'sNext up were the salads.  We both ordered the Insalata Nicola, which has field greens, onions, pears, sun dried tomatoes, and gorgonzola cheese tossed with a very good balsamic vinegar/olive oil dressing.  Yummy!  Very crisp and fresh and all the ingredients come together perfectly.  We love this salad!

FusilliThen we ordered a pasta to share.  Here’s where my disappointment comes in.  When we come here, I typically order the Bucatini alla Amatriciana (hollow spaghetti with tomato sauce, pancetta, and cheese), but it was not on the menu.  They did have the dish that Ogre always gets, which is the Fusili Spaccati alla Luciana (leaf shaped pasta with shrimp, arugala, and white wine/cream sauce).  I told Ogre it must be fate, so we ordered that.  He suggested we just see if they’d make what I usually order.  The pasta was perfectly al dente with a light, creamy sauce and the shrimp tastes great with it.  Ogre, of course, loved it, me, not as much.  Benji loved it also. To be fair, it’s not that this dish is bad, it just wasnt’ what I wanted. (Gosh, that sounds bratty!) 

Then, we had to order the Secondi!!  We each had to order an entree.  We decided Filet Mignonon the Filetto di Manzo (filet that is pepper crusted and has foie gras atop it served with asparagus and grilled zucchini).  It was good, but not out of this world good.  I’m not a huge fan of simply encrusting meat with black pepper.  The cheese polenta and veggies were very good, though.

Veal ChopWe also had the Costoletta di Alba (a large veal shank served atop cheese polenta and served with grilled aspargus and tomato).  I thought this was just okay. Our server recommend we not order this any less done than medium and we agreed.  I just don’t like meats cooked more than medium-rare; it seems to lose its flavor and taste “gray.”  The cheese polenta and the veggies were, again, very good.

TiramisuAnd, finally, we ordered dessert.  We ordered the tiramisu as our server said he would DEFNITELY go for the tiramisu over the recently modified tort.  We’ve had this before, so we know it’s good.  It’s very cream and powdered with A LOT of cocoa powder.  I like my tiramisu slightly more moist, so that was the only issue that separated it from perfection.

Penne PastaNo kids menu, but they offer a small pizza or pasta.  We chose pasta and it cost us 6 bucks.

 

The service

We’ve never had bad service here.  Our server, who I think we’ve had before, was very attentive, on the ball, great with the kids.  Couldn’t ask for more!  Food comes out at a tempo appropriate for this type of restaurant.

The kids

We’ll call it kid accomodating.  We’ve actually taken Mina here almost every time we’ve eaten here and have been just fine.  There were two other tables with kids tonight.  They don’t have a kids menu, but they quickly offer a pizza or pasta and know to get this started right away and bring it on out.  That being said, dinner here does last a while so keep that in mind.  If Benji (or Mina) were misbehaving or being loud, I’d definitely be embarrassed and self-conscious and we’d be taking our food to go.

I recommend this restaurant for the great food, but I’m going to be cautious in recommending it with kids.  Probably better for a date, out with older kids, or with others who will entertain your kids unless you’re feeling lucky.  We were lucky for the most part tonight and the kids behaved!

The total: $158.08 ( 4 glasses of wine, 2 coffees)

Located at the Shops of Legacy in Plano

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