And now it’s time to take that long awaited trip to downtown Newark, and visit NICO Kitchen + Bar--the all new “Italian Without Borders” Restaurant that opened at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

I met the charming, affable, Executive Chef Ryan DePersio at Fascino, his first main establishment which opened in Montclair in 2003. At that time it was a total family affair. His mom, Cynthia, served as pastry chef, his Dad, Anthony, was General Manager, and his Brother Anthony, Business Manager. I can only tell you, the ambiance, food, and staff were all amazing. I could not wait to return.

In 2010, the family opened Bar Cara in Bloomfield. Using all of the family initials to create the name, the focus of the more casual environment is their huge ‘Power Lunch’. And now, the arrival of NICO, Kitchen + Bar, located in the savvy New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Named for DePersio’s son Nicholas, (who is now six and one half years old), guests may easily share and enjoy the convenience of small plates, as well as full portions of his divine cuisine.

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A graduate of the New York Restaurant School, DePersio has worked with Jean-Georges Vongerichten and David Bouley in Manhattan. He’s starred at La Brasserie in Paris, the Michelin-three starred Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, Italy, and Cafe Panache in Ramsey.

“I believe the only way to be famous for my cooking, is to demonstrate my culinary knowledge and creativity. As each restaurant grows and develops, we strive to increase our dining expertise.”

“How fortunate that my brilliant staff is always there to support me,” he continued. “Our bar program is overseen by General Manager John Reinga who arrived from Manhattan. Our excellent Chef de Cuisine Adam Rose, honed his skills at Bin 14 in Hoboken, and Binicio Salas creates our desserts.”

Chef de Cuisine Adam Rose runs the kitchen at Nico. Hired by Chef Ryan, Adam graduated from the New York Restaurant School, and most recently worked at the North Maple Inn in Basking Ridge. His flawless attention to detail is obvious with every dish served.

At a recent dinner Executive Chef DePersio, Chef de Cuisine Adam Rose, and the entire Nico staff offered selections from the Nico Kitchen + Bar Menu. A First Course introduced a Trio of Tartares, Scottish Salmon, Truffled Beef, and Yellow fin Tuna, ($10.00), and Beet Pinwheel with Goat Cheese “Snow”, Red Wine Syrup, and Mache Salad, ($9.00). Presented on a platter, for each member of our party to share,  I could not stop reaching for beets, and more beets.

Our second course featured Squid Ink Cavatelli-Octopus, Pepperdew Peppers, Pomodoro, Gremolata, ($15.00), and “Facino,” (A dish held over from Facino in Montclair), Ricotta Gnocchi-Sweet Sausage Bolognese, Pecorino Romano Basil, ($12). Once again, I savored each delicious bite.

What can I say about the Third Course, Quattro, Formaggi Pizza-Black Truffle, Lardo? ($12).  We’ve all enjoyed pizza, but this dish was exceptional, as was the Cumin Scented Lamb Meatballs with roasted peppers and crumbled Feta cheese. Served on a simple, narrow dish, each meatball was a culinary photograph.

Our Fourth Course included Porcini Dusted Sea Scallops, Crispy Eggplant, Pepronata, Red Pepper Emulsion, ($21), and Thyme Roasted beef Tenderloin, Yukon Gold Roasti, Wilted Swiss Chard, and Bone marrow-Salmoriglio, ($20).

Desserts, which rounded-off our delectable dining experience, began with a Chef’s selection of Artisanal cheeses, Acadia Honey, Seasonal Fruit Compote, Crostini; Praline Ricotta Cheesecake with Grand Marnier Sauce; Chocolate Sour Cream Cake, with a teeny cup of Fudge, listed as a Fudge Pot, Cherry Compote, Pistachio Mousse, and Rum Raisin Bread Pudding, Caramel Pecan Gelato. (From $9)

Yes, you are welcome to come for lunch and enjoyed a menu filled with both American and Italian selections. From a grilled shrimp roll with compressed cucumber, and spicy lemon yogurt, ($11), to a Nico cheeseburger with New York Cheddar Cheese, grilled red onion, and sliced tomato, ($11), and crab cake sliders, with spicy tartar, tomato, and crispy pancetta, ($13). You also may want to try Nico’s popular Grilled BLT, pork belly, tomato jame, frisee, and balsamic caramel, ($10).

In addition to dining at NICO Kitchen + Bar, watch for the arrival of the popular TV show, ‘America’s Got Talent’. Creating it’s very own buzz, visitors will have another exciting reason to visit New Jersey PAC.

What: NICO Kitchen + Bar, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, One Center Street, Newark
Call: 973.642.1226
Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. Happy Hour: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday. Dinner: Monday through Thursday to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday to 11 p.m. Sunday in conjunction with selected performances.
FYI: Casually-Smart Dress. Free parking with validation, (although not in conjunction with any performance.) Value priced dinners available on Theater Nights and Matinees, designed to quickly appear so guests may make their curtain..that is if you plan to arrive at least 90 minutes before the start of a performance.  Enjoy Happy Hour at The Bar featuring 21 Wines by the glass, classic cocktails, and artisinal beers. Happy Hour also features specially priced drinks, and “bites”.
$$$$: Dinner for Two: $85 (Includes: Two glasses of wine, Appetizer, Entree, and One Dessert (Excluding tax, and gratuities)

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