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A New Year For the Old-World Charm of Osteria da Nino

Osteria da Nino
2900 S. Quincy Street (Shirlington area)
Tel: 703-820-1128

There’s a lot new at Shirlington’s Osteria da Nino since we last checked in with owner Nino Pino.

The chef who’s hard at work in the kitchen started last summer, bringing some new flair to the menu, which changes with the seasons to incorporate the freshest ingredients.

The crowds have grown since this time last year, in particular those booking the private event space, which now sports a brand new 65-inch TV.

On our Arlington Agenda you might have seen one thing that started last year and is bringing in new customers, also known as future regulars: wine seminars featuring some of Italy’s best and most interesting wines.

What else drives Osteria da Nino’s increasing popularity and stellar online reviews? There’s the food, of course. It’s delicious. There’s the service, which is attentive. And then, naturally, there’s Nino.

The owner and seven-day-a-week public face/greeter/manager/avuncular converser of Osteria da Nino knows your name and possibly your birthday and anniversary and pet’s name if you’ve been to his restaurant twice. Maybe just once.

He is, as of this sentence being typed, sitting at the bar, grabbing a quick bite (it’s 9 p.m., guests come first) and conversing in Italian with a fellow who’s visiting from Italy. Nino’s practice of chatting with every guest is remarkable for its dichotomy: when he’s talking with you, he’s focused on you and how you’re doing today and how the dog/kid/business is doing, to the extent that it’s almost like no one else in the restaurant matters. But they do, and then with a “grazie” he’s off to seat a couple that just walked in or to chat with another table. Most of them, by the way, are regulars.

Before you finish your meal, he has talked and seated everyone. And then he’s back to you, with little sense of being rushed even if the place is packed, checking on just how great, exactly, your dinner (or lunch) was. It’s amazing.

There’s just one thing that bugs the most patient, Old World restaurateur in town, and that’s the relatively new habit of diners going home and giving so-so reviews online. (Nino has been running restaurants since well before the internet was a thing.)

Granted, Osteria da Nino doesn’t get a lot of bad reviews, but when he does it’s personally disappointing. Because he has checked once, twice, thrice to make sure everything is up to everybody’s expectations. And if not, he’s gracious and quick to offer to fix whatever’s wrong.

But Nino insists the customer is always right and will try to make his guests happy even after the fact, after the review — and yes, he reads every single one — is out there. Everybody has an occasional off day, a day that hasn’t gone well, that then leads you in your frustration to being particularly persnickety on Yelp because your ravioli wasn’t at your preferred temperature. And that’s okay.

Mi scusi, Nino will say the next time you’re in, above the din of conversation as Dean Martin plays over the sound system, and bentornato mio amico.

Be sure to check out mouth-watering food videos from the kitchen of Osteria da Nino, courtesy of Nino’s daughter, on the restaurant’s Facebook page. And if parking is an issue, phone ahead and see if any of ODN’s reserved parking spaces are available across the street.

The preceding was a sponsored profile of Osteria da Nino written by ARLnow.com.

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