Being lovers of routine and personal connections must run in my family. I had my Friday nights at the Napoleon House, Friday mornings with Lucille at the Monteleone Hotel, and Sunday mornings at Croissant D'Or during my past New Orleans life. Tom and Adrianne have Nino Saturdays. I can't really say if it's morning, afternoon or evenings...if it's Saturday, you'll find them at Nino's.
Sicily comes alive in this tucked away spot at 1510 S. Carrollton Avenue. Although I'd eaten at Nino's once before with Tom, I was only visiting and it was during the week...this was very different.
We placed our orders...all of us having the rolled catfish stuffed with cheese and spinach, with a choice of shells or lasagna. As Tom said: "Have you ever heard of lasagna as a 'side'?" Tom also made the mistake of telling me, that any leftovers are graced with an extra helping of pastas to take home. Tom wolfed his down as usual. Adrianne was rather delicately saving half of hers. And me, I realized that I was down to the last half of my catfish. I probably could have eaten it, but would have been stuffed. Those feelings of full and that little voice in my head saying: "more pasta in your take home container" forced me to stop. If I'd eaten it all, there'd have been no catfish, lasagna and shells for dinner later that night! And then there's the wine.
Being regulars is one thing, but this is more than that...this is like family. (And, you know what family means to Sicilians.) After we'd finished our dinners inside and had our take-home containers safely tucked away in the trunk of the car, we took our red wine in those 16oz styrofoam cups and parked ourselves at an outside booth with Nino.
Of course, there's always room for more. If you look at the group photos in the booth behind us, you see the smiling face of "Hen". Hen short for Henry, joined in the conversation quickly. He shared his Sicilian and Cajun roots that he blends into his own special cooking style, which he is convinced helped him catch that "very beautiful woman" as his wife. Hen and Nino traded culinary secrets, but soon Hen, beautiful wife, and children, loudly rumbled out of the parking lot in their large SUV to enjoy the day's parades.
Back on our own, this new kid on the block felt like she'd always been coming to Nino's on Saturdays with Tom and Adrianne. It would be easy to sit there all day long enjoying the company of Nino, family, old friends, new friends, and a whirlwind of fine food and fine wine. But for me, it will be the loveliness of humor and language spoken with that inimatable Sicilian flair and spirit.
As Tom and I got ready to go, I thanked Nino. I told him I am usually on my bike, but I'd be back. I got the impression he'd have been happy to give me a ride...his parting words were: "We don't deliver, but we pick up!" I smiled all the way home!