Sherman's Food Adventures: Nello's Bar & Restaurant

Nello's Bar & Restaurant

I'm sure everyone has seen the cost of food these days - it is through the roof.  Inflation is real and it has affected prices in the grocery stores and of course also the restaurant industry.  To get a half-decent meal these days, we are looking at paying minimally chain restaurant prices.  So what if I told you there is a new spot located on the corner of Lougheed Highway and Brunette dishing up Italian eats for a reasonable price?  With inspiration from Chef Nello of the former Rossini's (hence the name of the restaurant Nello's), we find pastas for only $18.00 each.  

Before the mains, we got some antipasti to begin including the Burrata and Prosciutto with confit garlic, arugula and aged balsamic.  Sure, this could be classified as a simple starter, but this was priced at a reasonable $16.00.  As you can clearly see, there was a good amount of creamy burrata (which was fresh) and also good-quality prosciutto.  I liked the addition of confit garlic on top as it provided a bit of aromatics to the burrata.

If we didn't have enough burrata in the previous dish, we got more of it in the Tomato Onion Burrata (a take on Caprese salad except with burrata instead of fresh mozzarella).  Again, this was simple, yet ultimately appealing due to the fresh ripe tomatoes, creamy burrata, red onion, fresh basil and aged balsamic.  Having vine ripened tomatoes was key as they ate well on their own, but was extra delicious with burrata.

One of the most surprising items was Shayne's Black Sambuca Prawns.  Honestly, I would've never imagined something grey blackish in colour would be so delicious.  That unmistakable hit of licorice was just right with equal amount of sweetness.  It was almost candy-like, but not quite.  Instead, it complimented the sweet snap of the prawns beautifully.  This was accompanied by an arugula salad and garlic bread.  Yes, I used the bread to soak up all of the remaining sauce on the plate.

For good measure, we also ordered the Garlic Cheese Bread as a side for our pastas.  This was the same garlic bread as in the previous dish and topped with cheese and toasted.  As you can see, the cheese was completely melted and there was a some charring on the top of the bread.  It was crunchy in spots while soft and chewy in the centre.  I personally would've liked an airier bread choice, but there was nothing wrong with this version either.

Moving onto the pastas, I gave the Bolognese with linguine first.   This version was more tomato-forward with beef, pork, garlic and red wine topped with fresh basil and parm.   There was no shortage of tender meat that was bathed in a tangy sauce.  I found the noodles just a tad past al dente, yet not overly soft either.  I would classify this as more home-style than high-end pasta, but for $18.00, this was very solid and well-portioned.

Sporting two gigantic meatballs, the Marinara with spaghetti was comforting and filling.  Meaty without much in the way of filler, the meatballs were on the denser side, but still tender.  The spaghetti was al dente and the marinara was tangy and thick.  Again, this more family style but then again, their motto is "Welcome to Our Family".  Therefore, this was something familiar and comforting.

Staying with tomato sauce, we tried the Pescatore with a marinara sauce, seafood, chili flakes and parsley.  The linguine was similar to the bolognese being just a tad past al dente.  The marinara ate very differently than the spaghetti and meatballs due to the addition of seafood.  There was an unmistakeable brininess to the sauce, which was good.  However, the shrimp were a bit overdone.  The rest of the seafood was fine though.

One of the most surprising pastas was the Penne Luxardo featuring the same sambuca as the prawns.  It was combined into a cream sauce with mushrooms, peas and pancetta.  With a similar flavour profile to the sambuca prawns, this dish took it a bit further with a touch of creaminess as well as the salty-fattiness of the pancetta.  Pasta was nicely al dente and held onto the right amount of sauce.

I think the best dish of the night was the Chicken Parm featuring a panko-crusted chicken breast in a mushroom rosé sauce topped with mozzarella and basil atop fettuccine alfredo.  That chicken breast couldn't have been any more tender and juicy.  It was perfectly prepared.  The rosé was balanced with both tangy and creamy elements while there was a generous amount of cheese on top.  I found the fettuccine alfredo to be creamy and well-seasoned.  We added extra grilled chicken to emulate the actual Fettuccine Alfredo on the menu.  This was not juicy like the chicken parm and I recommend that you go for the chicken parm instead.

A very close second best dish was the Veal Marsala with seasonal veggies and confit garlic mashed potatoes.  At first, I was wanting pasta rather than mashed potatoes underneath, but really, the potatoes were really good.  Nicely mashed where it was creamy with a few potato bits and skin, the garlic really came through.  This helped soak up all of the rich marsala sauce where I could taste the marsala as well as the ample mushrooms.  Really good as the veal was super tender while the root veggies on the side were still crunchy and vibrant.

Onto dessert, we tried the Tiramisu which was nice presented with a half cocoa powder dusted top.  Underneath, we found it to be more whipped cream texture than mascarpone but that just made things a lot lighter.  It wasn't too sweet and the hits of espresso were also on the milder side.  On the bottom, the lady fingers were properly soaked being soft and fluffy without being too wet.

Our other dessert was a selection of Matteo's Gelato featuring Strawberry, Hazelnut and Blood Orange on top of house-made granola.  Texturally, the gelato was creamy and light, while melting quite fast (which is a good thing for gelato since that would mean no thickeners or stabilizers).  I enjoyed the blood orange the most as it was fruity and purposefully sweet.  In general, the food at Nello's was quite good at a reasonable price point.  Since they just practically opened, some things might need a bit of tweaking, but there were some standout dishes such as the Sambuca Prawns, Chicken Parm, Veal Marsala and Penne Luxardo.  Ultimately, Nello's is a good addition to Maillardville and offers a better alternative to all the chain restaurants and pubs in the area.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Something more upscale in the neighbourhood
- Well-priced
- Solid eats with some stand-out dishes

The Bad:
- A few tweaks needed, but common for a brand new restaurant


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