Atmosphere: Nothing formal here.
Price Range: From a $1.50 egg sandwich to a $6,75 top entree; 99-cent specials on spaghetti or pizza during weekday lunch hours.
Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.; Saturdays, 5 p.m. to 3:30 a.m.; closed Sundays.
Special Facilities: Accessible by wheelchair, though passages are narrow. No high chairs or booster seats, but all ages welcome. Street parking in the evenings.
Reservation: Not necessary, but it's a tiny spot.
Credit Cards: American Express.
We couldn't quite remember the most suitable attire for a visit to Nino's downtown, though we did recall that there the word "up" didn't necessarily follow the word "dress". On arrival, a quick look around told us that anything above faded jeans is overkill.
That's probably why people keep coming back to Nino's: There's plenty of fine pizza and nary a trace of the upper crust.What this place lacks in splendor, it makes up for in friendliness (we were about to say "warmth," but on the night we stopped in, the rest rooms upstairs were absolutely freezing).
Indeed, at the outset our waitress was so generally bubbly and particularly attentive to the children that we wondered whether she was on to our journalistic act. But after a couple of "how-ya-doin-baby's" to other incoming and presumably regular customers, we decided she just must like people for some reason.
It's hard to recognize anyone in here, anyway; in the dim of the tiffany lamps, there are something like eight tables nestled under the silhouettes of what must be hanging plants.
On the walls are framed photos of various visitors from yesterday and yesteryear, copper pans, a railroad sign and those straw-covered wine bottles that everybody in college stuck candles in for a touch of class.
Upstairs, where there are three little tables and one long one, it looked just the way my wife and I had left it on our last visit - about 11 years ago. Only the salt and pepper had been changed to protect the condiments.
Near the door downstairs, our 10-year-old son was quick to note a photo of Sonny Jurgensen, who writes that Nino's is his favorite Italian restaurant. But my wife found the real gem on another wall: "A toast to cozy Nino's and your obliging hours," says the inscription on a posed photo of a shapely belly dancer, "and your succulent, plump, tender chicken livers." It is signed by "Zaka of Syriana, Port Said, Suez, etc." (which are not OPEC nations, but old night spots around this town).
We'll get to those chicken livers in a moment, but first a message about an appetizer, since I did try one. It was shrimp cocktail, at $1.50, which is a small price by today's not-so-shrimpy standards. These shrimp weren't all that outsized either, but at least there were six of the little devils.
So what about those chicken livers? They arrived as an order of chicken livers and mushrooms, at$4.50, for my wife, and they were swell once you rescued them from a red sea of forgetable tomato sauce.
It may be just us, bu the way, but rare is the tomato sauce that scores well. There was more of this sauce on the spaghetti that accompanied my main course and it needed heavy help from a nearby shaker of grated cheese.
Ah, but my main course proved to be a family-wide hit. It was that old standby for italian francophiles: Veal a la Francaise, at $5.25 ($5.95 with the spaghetti). That's small pieces of soft veal, slightly crisped in a grand butter sauce and served with lemon slices.
Meanwhile, for the first time in maybe a week or so, our son and 8-year-old daughter had agreed on something: a medium-sized, foot-in-diameter, pepperoni and sausage pizza, at $3.80. It was packed with crispy waferthin slices of pepperoni that tasted much like bacon and equally thin bits of good sausage.
Along with an order of deliciously strong garlic bread for 50 cents, which fortunately the children didn't take to and a basket of Italian bread with a dish of butter, there was more than our family of four could manage; the kids easily could have trimmed back to a small version of their Pizza for $3.05.
Other inexpensive offerings that might appeal to smaller fry include scrambled eggs for $1.75, spaghetti starting at $2.95 or an egg sandwich for $1.50. We also spotted a most handsome antipasto at the table across from us.
No one opted for dessert, which was either cheese cake for 85 cents or rum cake for 75 cents. Soour bill, with two $1 beers and two 45-cent Cokes, came to $20.59 plus tip.
As we've been hinting here, Nino's isn't likely to dazzle you with its decor, which probably hasn't been redone since the end of World War II. But children and adults alike may find the easy-goinh atmosphere,variety and attractive prices worth sampling along the downtown circuit.