As many of the people reading this blog probably already know, we offer two distinct menus for dinner at Nino’s. We came to these menus with the desire to offer not only classic Italian specialties, but also creative, seasonal cuisine. For over a year now, our del giorno and tradizionale menus have helped us accomplish this goal. Our tradizionale menu is offered year-round, and features our most recognized and well-loved Italian fare: Spaghetti Bolognese, Linguine con Vongole, and Eggplant Parmigiana–just to name a few. Our del giorno menu changes frequently–every day or every other day, depending on the week. This menu is all about seasonality. Still Italian-inspired, we also draw inspiration from other Mediterranean, European, and American culinary traditions. In many cases, when we use local ingredients, we pay homage to their Pennsylvania roots. In all cases, the seasonal ingredients determine the menu. Rustic dishes such as chicken pot pie are the order of the day in the winter months, and in the summer the weekend menu decisions are made at Mount Pleasant’s Farmers’ Market each Wednesday.
One of the most popular features of our seasonal menu is our antipasto cart. Each Friday and Saturday evening, we fill the antique cart in the center of our dining room with an ever-changing variety of antipasti. Antipasto before dinner is an Italian tradition, and to me, the perfect showcase for the seasons. Local salami, house marinated mushrooms, and imported olives are featured weekly, along with both hot and cold specialties for sampling before dinner. At the peak of tomato season, a highlight is our Caprese Salad with fresh mozzarella, red and yellow tomatoes, and basil. Lately, in the cold, locally-made hot Italian sausage has warmed us up!
Look for seasonal antipasto recipes forthcoming here on our blog. We’ll celebrate winter as we wait for spring.
Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and the classic flavors of fall abound: chestnut stuffing, apple cider, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie. However, today’s cocktail pays homage to an oft-overlooked autumn flavor: maple.
The “Mapletini” is a simple seasonal cocktail perfect for your pre-turkey line-up; although you might be hard pressed to find the drink’s secret ingredient in your local liquor store. The signature spirit, Sortilege Maple Liqueur, hails from Quebec. We special order it for the bar at Nino’s from one of our wine importers.
Sortilege is a delicious blend of Canadian whisky and Canadian maple syrup. So, in a pinch, you might stir some warm maple syrup with whisky to create your own infusion. The flavor profile is more maple than whisky, so be liberal with your syrup. The vodka added to create the Mapletini will mellow any cloying sweetness.
We chose Stolichnaya vanilla vodka, although different vodkas might yield interesting results. The ratio for the cocktail is 1:1–just half Stoli Vanil and half Sortilege. We chill this ‘tini in a shaker and serve it up in a glass rimmed with cinnamon sugar. A cinnamon stick stirrer or a garnish of vanilla bean would also do the trick.
The Mapletini is great alone or paired with food, and the vanilla-cinnamon-maple notes would work well with both sweet and savory dishes. Since I tend towards savory, how about miniature maple sausage sandwiches with sauteed onion and apple to beginning your Thanksgiving feast?
Mushrooms are a wonderful seasonal ingredient in autumn and winter. We feature them in earthy dishes such as veal and porcini pappardelle, chicken portobello, and wild mushroom risotto. Plus, our house marinated mushrooms have become a staple on our weekend Antipasto Cart. For marinating, we begin with whole baby button mushrooms, heated–just barely–with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, and herbs. They are the perfect companion to our selection of local salami; not to mention, tossed with carmelized onion and gorgonzola, they make a delicious pizzetta!
Our Halloween weekend was full of fright. Thursday night was our annual Halloween party and costume contest at the restaurant. Congratulations to the Abominable Snowman and his Snow Bunny who took home first prize!
The witches pictured below attended our Hallowine Tasting on Friday, which was complete with wines from Transylvania. Our menu for the evening included deviled crab cakes, death by chocolate, and other terrifying treats.
Finally, a spooky view of our moonlit garden, and a Halloween arrangement of mums, bells-of-Ireland, and pumpkin trees, complete with a garden gnome.
Congratulations to Kelli and Rob, who were wed on Saturday, October 23rd in Irwin, and Miriam and Jeffrey, who were wed on Sunday, October 24th in Pittsburgh. We were happy to be a part of both beautiful celebrations!
Invitation and centerpieces by The Laurel Garden.