IT can be hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re an Italian restaurant.
All too often trips to various Italian eateries in the region leave you with a sense of déjà vu: same pizza/pasta menu, same coffee/cream interiors.
Nino’s, however, can be applauded for carving a niche of its own. Pre-gig at Newcastle Arena, and clan Wheeler was at The Gate to find something to fuel our night at a pop concert.
Tucked away at the back of the centre, Ninos’ bright lights and quirky decor caught our eye.
It’s a vibrant place which combines modern, sleek fittings with retro images of Italy and 1950’s busty bombshells adorning the walls.
It was bustling with families and had that relaxed atmosphere you get in family restaurants on the Med.
Our waiter was super-dooper friendly and presented my niece Amy with crayons and a picture to keep her occupied, while we scanned the menu.
As if that wasn’t enough to keep little legs entertained there was also a giant projector playing scenes from Wacky Races on the wall.
The menu boasts good old-fashioned, hearty Italian staples such as meatballs, gnocchi, pasta et al.
To start, my brother David and I shared the antipasto misto which serves two for £8.75.
It was presented on a trendy wooden platter and was a pix ‘n’ mix delight of Parma ham, artisan salami, blue cheese, local goats cheese, roasted peppers, green beans, slow roasted cherry tomatoes, marinated olives and crusty olive bread.
We picked our way through the tasty morsels in no time before tucking into our mains.
Mine was a crab ravioli (£9.50) – huge chunks of pasta parcels plump with crab meat – it was simply delicious. The sauce complemented it perfectly without drowning out the flavour of the pasta.
Amy enjoyed a make-your-own pizza from the bambino’s menu which was a bargain at £4.25, while my sister-in-law Heather gave the thumbs up to her adult pollo pizza (£8.75).
David, meanwhile, took on the “Nino’s Diablo Challenge” where those with a fiery taste in food are dared to finish the hottest of pizzas and pastas in a bid to win a bottle of beer or glass of wine.
It came as no surprise to me that he was easily able to demolish the El Diablo pizza ( £10.95) and its beef strips, jalapenos, red peppers, spicy pepperoni, birds eye chillies and homemade super hot pizza sauce.