Nini’s, a ten-year
East Havener Proto started in the deli
business using his family’s Italian recipes. From the time he was 18
until he turned 25, Proto owned three delis: Full Belly in
The Bistro was a four-night a week restaurant with two seatings each night. That worked well for about seven years. Then the economy went south and people changed their eating habits. The Bistro was very structured with the two seatings offering a heavy four-course meal: salad, appetizer, entree and dessert. And it was BYOB. But diners started wanting a less expensive, lighter fare, with an affordable wine list. “If you were getting off work you couldn’t get a glass of wine and a couple of appetizers,” Proto says, “we weren’t that kind of place.” In 2010 Nini’s Bistro became Nini’s House of Tapas and became just that kind of place.
Nini’s still does
a prix fixe three-course for $28.95, or a four-course
for $33.95. The servings are a bit smaller than the old days, but also
less expensive. “Two couples will come in, two of them will order a
three-course, two of them will order a four-course. So they get 12 items
to share, they all order different stuff and table share, then they
get two desserts and they split the desserts,” Proto says. “It will
fill you up,” says
“If you want to come into our place with ten people for a birthday party, everyone does a four-course meal, and you know that you can put $50 with tax and tip on the table and they walk out,” Proto says. “It’s very easy to do big parties. The food is so varied, it’s an international menu, everything from osso bucco to sushi.”
“Food without borders,”
The two continue to cater through Grand Gourmet, as well as their
mobile, brick-oven pizza truck called Red Wagon Pizza. Fortunately,
they continue their retail dining experience in the intimate, inviting
space tucked into
Petite pork osso buco: baby pork shanks, braised with red wine and wild mushrooms, served with polenta.
Crispy shrimp: large shrimp in a rice paper, spring-roll crust, served with sweet-spicy Thai chili sauce.
Truffle fries: russet potatoes fried twice, finished with black truffle salt and truffle oil.
The tempura salmon roll: wild salmon, asparagus, cream cheese, fried tempura style.
Dessert! Cannoli Nachos: fresh-fried chips with cinnamon sugar, topped with cannoli cream, Nutella, coconut, crushed Oreos and candied nuts.
London, left, and owner Felix Proto have been restaurant partners for over 20
years. Now they have Nini’s House of Tapas on
Nini’s House of Tapas,