Osteria da Nino
2900 S. Quincy Street (Shirlington area)
“Old-world charm” is one way to describe Osteria da Nino in Shirlington.
But that’s not commentary on the interior of the Shirlington restaurant, which is clean and modern. Rather, it’s a reflection of the personalized service you get from owner and Sicily native Nino Pino.
Arrive at Osteria da Nino for lunch or dinner and most of the time it will be Nino warmly greeting you at the door. If he’s met you before, he’ll ask about your kids, your dog, your house. He remembers those things.
Nino greets customers, supervises the staff and makes sure your meal has met or exceeded your expectations. But those expectations are getting higher with each Yelp review.
For an unassuming Italian restaurant tucked away outside Shirlington’s main drag, Osteria da Nino has attracted plenty of attention from Yelp users. The restaurant currently has a 4.5 star average, from 107 reviews. Most of the reviews laud the authenticity and rich flavor of the food, along with the personal service.
Nino grew up in Italy and started his first restaurant, a pizzeria called Il Papiro, at the age of 18. After working as a waiter on Royal Caribbean cruise ships in the ’70s, he came to the U.S. and settled in Northern Virginia about 30 years ago, continuing to work in the hospitality business. He’s managed numerous well-regarded restaurants in the area, including Primi Piatti and the former Fellini in D.C., Palio in Leesburg, Zeffirelli in Herndon and, most recently, Zibbibo 73 in Stafford.
It was at Zeffirelli that Nino first met Jim and Margaret Manchisi, natives of Queens, New York, who loved the experience at Nino’s restaurants. Jim’s grandparents, it turns out, are also from Italy – a small town in the Southeast called Bari. The Pino’s and Manchisi’s became great friends.and that friendship would become a business partnership, helping to fulfill Nino’s dream of opening his own neighborhood restaurant. Osteria da Nino started serving customers on April 3, 2015.
With his namesake restaurant, Nino has focused on freshness. Freshly-made pasta, fresh fish, fresh oysters, fresh sauces like his mother, Agatina, used to make in the picturesque town of Letojanni, Sicily, just outside of Taormina. It’s the freshness that stands out, helping to earn Osteria da Nino its stellar online reviews.
On the evening ARLnow.com stopped by, Nino had just been beckoned to the bar. Two customers wanted to talk to him.
“I was just going over the menu and I’m like, oh my God, there are all my favorite foods,” said Brandy Schantz. She and her husband, who live in Rosslyn, had first met Nino when he worked at Palio, and were pleasantly surprised to find out he had opened a restaurant in Arlington.
Not only is Osteria da Nino a neighborhood restaurant, it’s truly a family restaurant. Nino’s wife, Joginder, works as an accountant but helps out at the restaurant on weekends. She usually helps with the “front of the house” — greeting customers — but she’ll go into the kitchen and whip up a mean lasagna or tiramisu, if needed.
One thing that’s unusual about Osteria da Nino is something it lacks: a general manager. A common position at other restaurants, Nino says he doesn’t believe in it, at least not for a restaurant this size. The owner should be willing to do anything a general manager would do, especially when it comes to ensuring that customers are happy.
After decades in the local restaurant industry, Nino has seen plenty of things change. Fellini, for instance, used to turn into a jacket-and-tie-required nightclub in the 90s. But then again, some things never change.
“The basics are the same,” Nino said. “My secret has been welcoming people and helping them personally.”
The preceding was a sponsored profle written by ARLnow.com.