February 10, 2004
Peppo Nino is one of what some of us call a “travel-at-home” restaurant. Just like a visit to the Bayou can lift you back to the Big Easy, other restaurants can take you away from our rural valley — and Peppo Nino takes us not so much to Italy but to Little Italy, like you were going into the city to catch some obscure Bukowski movie in The Village but stopped in at this great Italian place somebody’s attorney’s uncle had told you about at that wedding reception last June.
Hey, you have your late-winter mind games, I’ll have mine.
This is the real thing. Sedate interior. Flowers, including deep red roses, on the dozen or so tables. Candles. I note that four of the maybe eight fellow late-night diners appear to be of Italian decent — a good sign.
The Peppo Nino was been high on my list of places to go, and had been for years. Virtually every trip across Glenwood’s Grand Avenue bridge brought another vow to visit the place, which is one of a series of restaurants that make the “wing street” area among the valley’s more interesting pedestrian areas. Next to the bridge and around the corner, you have Rick’s new location, the Supper Club, Peppo Nino, Defiance Station (already one of the up-and-coming classic spots in Glenwood) and it goes on up to the brew pub.
Adding to the traditional, family-style Italian restaurant ambiance is the “dinners for two” section of the menu. The dinners come complete with soup or salad, fresh bread, some wine and such trimmings and cost about $30. The offerings include spaghetti, baked rigatoni, cheese manicotti or cheese ravioli.
Being in the travel-at-home mode, it pays to take up a position near a window. Glenwood’s streetscape never disappoints, and you can enjoy the view of the bridge, the cars making their cautious way along the wing street and await the faint sound of the Amtrak cutting into town. We’d heard rumors of the extensive veal parmesan, and that was one of our orders along with the sausage lasagna.
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Having spent some of the previous hours making Ghandi jokes about our near-starvation, over-ordering was perhaps inevitable. We started with a challenge: Calamari, which, in my experience, proves that deep-fried things taste exactly the same whether they are expensive seafood or my kid brother’s shoelaces. Surprisingly, the Peppo Nino calamari passed the test — they retained their flavor through a light coating and came with a nice marinara sauce.
Even the dinner salads, that virtually abandoned frontier of local chefs, was good news. They came with real lettuce mixed with the iceberg stuff and a nice touch of anti-pasta, and we especially liked the fresh green onion. Not to belabor the point, but a dinner salad that shows any creativity should always be taken as a sign that the apocalypse is perhaps not imminent. As always, try the house dressing but maybe have it on the side — it’s a bit assertive.
The lasagna came hot and plentiful in a deep dish with a small sea of red sauce. It was dip-city for the bread and Peppo Nino is not stingy with the bread. The only real problem with the lasagna was the neighboring veal, which came in its own sauce sea and included a light breading. It was tender and would have been right at home in Little Italy.
They say the desserts are great here. We had to take their word for it, because we were already planning the next day’s Peppo Nino take-home feasts.
Prices are moderate. Entrees like the veal are around $13, and the big-ticket item is the New York strip for $18.95. Dinner for two, with apps and several glasses of a good red wine, was $45, and would have been deemed a good value even if we didn’t have the next day’s lunch AND dinner left over.
Tired of going out to eat and wondering if maybe you could stop for a burger on the way home? Then get yourself out for a traditional Italian meal, and the valley’s reputation for good Italian lives at Peppo Nino.