Nica Trattoria

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80 Good

Freshly prepared Sicilian food and an inimitable host make for a neighborhood jewel.

354 E. 84th St., New York, NY, 10028


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The lowdown

This classic Sicilian spot has a fanatical devotion to fresh ingredients and a rare familial warmth — they encourage diners to take their time to eat and relax. The minuscule room is tastefully appointed with starched tablecloths, a vase bursting with fresh flowers, and walls of mirrors and polished wood. But the key is the exuberant host, Giuseppe Nicolosi. Between hugs at the door, he swings from table to table rhapsodizing in baritone about the lightness of his gnocchi — “You’ll need a seatbelt to stay in your chair!” — and rattling off daily specials. Starters are uneven: Grilled polenta is tender, and improved with earthy porcini mushrooms, but baby clams in white wine and tomato sauce underwhelm. For mains, the gnocchi are, as Nicolosi insists, light as a cloud, but they’re also swimming in butter. Plenty of pastas are available, but regulars stick with the rich meat dishes, and for good reason. The rack of lamb is perfectly grilled to order, and braised lamb, served on the shank bone, arrives still steaming and fork-tender from the oven. Served in its own juices, its impromptu sauce is further enriched with a thick ragù of carrots, onions, and herbs.

What you need to know

Insider Tips Cash only.

Recommended DishesCosciotto d’agneau; polenta con porcini; gnocchi.

DrinksFull Bar

Noise LevelCivilized