Monday, April 18, 2011
Nido's: Downtown Italian Dining
Like most Americans, I have been to very many Italian restaurants over the course of my life. Sadly, none of them have actually been in Italy, but I'm familiar enough with the genre to know what I like and what to expect from the ones that really have their act together. Nido's Little Italy Ristorante on Patrick St. definitely hits the mark. In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to call it my favorite.
When searching for ethnic food options, I am particularly drawn to those establishments that have taken thematic ownership of the entire space, inside and out, which isn't always an easy thing to do in an historic district. This is far from a bad thing, but most of the buildings on East Patrick St. are of the uniform nineteenth-century red-brick townhouse style that defines downtown Frederick so well, but Nido's, which I'm sure used to look the same as the rest, immediately stands out to the casual passerby. With sheer white brick, red and green trim, an enormous picture window and awnings that jet out over the sidewalk, one might wonder if the fabric of time and space are not quite in working order, as there seems to be a window to Italy sitting right in the middle of Frederick.
The inside is no less impressive. Maybe this is strange, but I think the first thing I noticed was the rough brick floor. It reminded me of the old streets of Annapolis that have been trodden down by bustling activity for centuries. It were as if they hadn't just laid a brick floor, but rather built the restaurant around an old city street. It makes me feel like I'm literally setting foot into another world.
Whatever the interior structure of this building used to be, it's now impossible to tell, as Roman arch-ways are punched into the walls. Some of them form little windows, like one with a miniature Venus de Milo sitting in it. A network of trellises covered in hanging grape-vines adorn the ceilings while black and white photos and drawings of Rome dot the walls. If you are really lucky, you will be seated in the room with the large pictures window so you can gaze out at the city buzz. Throw in the Italian music always playing in the background, and I am fully into this dining experience way before the food even arrives.
Absolutely everything on the menu looks good, and if it weren't for my friend Sasha highly recommending the spaghetti in marinara sauce, I would have been forever in placing my order. Fortunately, the waiting staff there is so gracious and friendly that I'm sure I could have taken as long as I wanted.
The meal, of course, was amazing. The marinara sauce is so much more tangy and savory than ordinary tomato sauce to the point that I prefer it even to spaghetti with meatballs. I was eating it so quickly that I managed to accidentally flick some sauce onto my shirt. It left me so good and full after my weekend of hard labor that I only had room for a cup of tea for dessert. There is always room for tea.
I can't wait until the period of my vegan diet ends so I can return and try a lot more of the menu, especially the lasagna and the cannoli. I have never actually tried a cannoli before, but everything about Nido's is so well put together that I trust them to make the best example of this treat to be found anywhere.
So now I suppose the conclusion is obvious and hardly need be said, but if you are in the area and crave a perfect dining experience, by all means please stop in Nido's. You can't miss it!
111 East Patrick Street
Frederick, MD 21701-5677