Located just north of Downtown in Cincinnati’s historic Over-the Rhine-neighborhood, Nicola’s Ristorante has long been a fine dining staple of the city during its more than two decades of operation. Owners Nicola and Maureen Pietoso pride their restaurant not only for its highly acclaimed contemporary Italian menu, extensive wine list and variety of unique dining spaces, but most especially for their restaurant’s long-standing reputation for being warmly hospitable and accommodating.
Jack Hemmer became the Executive Chef in June 2018. He reflects on his first memory of the restaurant and what it means to him to come full circle at Nicola’s Restaurant:
“I remember eating at Nicola’s for the first time 20 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday. My dad picked me and my two sisters up and told us, “dress up, because we were going to a very fancy restaurant.” When we arrived, we were greeted by the man himself, Nicola Pietoso. At first, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy any dinning experience that didn’t allow me to have my chicken tenders and fries, but as soon as I met Nicola, that had instantly changed. That night, I had the best meal of my life and my passion for food was ignited.
Fast forward 10 years and I was in the very early stages of my career in the restaurant industry. My dad and I had gone to dinner at Nicola’s for the Monday Bolo special and I was offered a job to be a garde manger cook. At that time, cooking was just a job for me and I didn’t see any real future in it, but once I got into that kitchen, I knew this was the path I wanted to take. I dropped out of business school and enrolled into culinary school at MCI. I spent the next five years working there and eventually worked my way up to Chef de Cuisine. Eventually, I left in 2014 to help open and run another restaurant. However, I am excited that I am now officially going back home to Nicola’s to be the new Executive Chef. I owe so much of my success to this restaurant and I can’t wait to get back to the place which started it all for me.”