Don’t let the humble stone façade of this tiny BYO restaurant fool you into thinking that it is just another mom-and-pop spaghetti joint. Tucked into a residential neighborhood across the road from the shores of Lake Hopatcong, Little Nicki’s serves up ample portions of some of the best Italian food in the area.
The moment our very friendly waitress seated us in the retro, knotty-pine dining room, we were presented with a steaming hot basket of bread dripping with garlic butter, and it just got better from there.
Tender rings of lightly battered calamari can be ordered three ways, traditional marinara, Modena balsamic or Buffalo style. Batons of zucchini also benefit from a crispy coating and a flash in the pan that leaves them firm-tender, yet crunchy on the outside.
Entrée choices are plentiful and include traditional favorites like spinach-stuffed tilapia Florentine.
The pork chop Murphy featured two oversized pieces of saucy pork loin smothered in sautéed onions and hot and spicy cherry peppers with slivers of crispy golden potatoes.
The evening’s specials were the real stars. A platter of breaded veal scaloppini with the Milanese accents of arugula, roasted artichokes and red peppers and chunks of fresh mozzarella was large enough to serve two or more, while a big bowl of soul-satisfying lobster mac n’ cheese was generously full of seafood chunks in a light cheese sauce topped with dark brown, crunchy bread crumbs.
Every entrée comes with soup or a salad. Our choice of dressing was a lovely balsamic full of pickled shallots.
Dessert fans should be advised to save room for a freshly filled cannoli, pairing sweet light cream in a thin and crisp shell with plenty of chocolate chips, or maybe a cinnamon-scented churro sundae.
The menu at Little Nicki’s also includes a wide range of panini and sub sandwiches, small and large calzones and stromboli, plus 12, 16 and 18-inch pizzas for eat-in, take-out or delivery.
Little Nicki’s Restaurant, 120 Brady Road, Lake Hopatcong, 973-601-7811, littlenickis.com. Open for dinner only Monday and Tuesday, lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday.