My friend Carlos paid for this. I would have been too mean. By the time I arrive, he already has a large plate of one of the taglieri (“cutting boards”). It’s laid out on the table, piled with figs, apricots, strawberries, olives, slices of cold cuts, little rounds of toasted breads, salad greens, and big triangles of a crumbly cheese. Pecorino? The usual antipasto round-up. And he’s sipping at a tall glass of Pacifico beer, looking very smug.
“What took you so long?” he said. “We need to get ahead of the ’Nado crowd, before they find out.”
He’s right about that. This is Carlos’s discovery. Nado Republic’s a brand-new place on C Avenue in Coronado. Italian, but more the tapa, small-plate, wine bar idea, like you’d see in the trendy streets of Madrid, Lyons, Warsaw, whatever, so Carlos tells me.
“This reminds me of Milan,” he’s saying. The man’s what you might call well-traveled.
“Well Sandro, the owner, is from the Venice area,” says Matilde, the gal serving us.
I mean, there have to be a dozen Italian places on the island, but this tapa idea does sound different. The place itself is an awkward joining of a square room and a curved room. But they have made it work. You walk in to this kind of inside patio with a palm tree growing up the middle, lots of hanging plants, antique tables, and comfortable chairs and settees with zebra cushions. Behind, in the curvy interior, they have a checkered tile floor, wooden bar, and a single arty TV screen showing not sports, but manta rays flying underwater. Also, on the wall, Marilyn Monroe with her quotes surrounding her. Example, “It’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
So I grab a seat within reach of Carlos’s taglieri board, natch, and ask for a Pacifico. One millisecond later I’m thinking how some fruity wine would go so much better with these meats and fruits, but Matilde’s already at the back bar.
Whatever, this is a nice, healthy little feast.
“Pecorino Romano,” says Carlos, picking up a triangle of cheese. “Sheep cheese. It was what the legionnaires of ancient Rome survived on, because it lasted so long, and was packed with energy.”
I like its hard, crumbly feel. And specially, its tanginess. Funny to think this exact cheese was the energy bar for all those marching legions 2000 years ago. Right now, I’m loving it with these luscious little figs.
“But, $18. Between the two of us, nine bucks each. Plus – six? For the beer? Glad he’s paying.
I check the menu. It’s one page, and simple. Prices? Gotta remember, this is Coronado. They’ll be paying Coronado rents. Like, in “antipasti,” bruschetta — basically toast and olive oil, with basil, garlic, and tomatoes — goes for $8, salads are $10-12, an Italian-style burger, with asiago cheese is $16, pizza in pala, which I think means “pizza on a paddle,” starts at $10 for a small size Margherita, topped with tomato salsa, mozzarella, and basil. Top of the list is a large “Estate,” ($28) which adds parma ham and little tomatoes. But what grabs Carlos’s and my attention is this second pizza category, “pizza fritta.” Looks like pizza folded up and fried. Huh.
Prices are lower here. Margherita’s $8, and four “seasonal” pizza frittas are pretty near. The “Primavera” (“spring,” $10), has mozzarella and fresh veggies, “Estate” (“summer,” $12), is mainly mozzarella, ham, and arugula, “Autunno” (autumn, $10), is mostly mozzarella, gorgonzola and ham, and “Inverno” (winter, $12), has four cheeses and walnuts. For a moment I can’t help privately wondering where Italian food is going. What’s its next exciting thing? Or is it stuck in a pizza-pasta-bread-tomato time-warp?
We decide to split a “summer” pizza fritta, and it does look fresh. Arugula sits on a bed of parmesan, with prosciutto on top, and tomatoes spread over that. Matilde slices it in two. Doesn’t look a lot. And yet it’s more than I can eat.
But the kicker comes when Sandro the owner comes out with two glasses half-filled with a red wine. “This is our offering on our first full day,” he says. “It’s special. A wine made partly with cherries.”
And OMG, it’s sweet but totally seductive. This would go great with dessert, I’m thinking.
Fast-forward to the next night. Around ten-thirty. Happen to be on the same street. See lights still blazing from Nado Republic. Mosey in. “Yes,” says Matilde — still at work — “we hope people will come in at this time. In Italy, some people have just finished dinner.”
And yes, they do still have some “Vino di Visciola sour cherry wine, from Morro d’Alba, Italy.” It’s $12 a glass. “And we have a cheesecake with sorbet made from merlot wine and blackberries. They combine very well.”
Now we’re talking new ideas. Yes, 12 bucks for the wine and $9 for the dessert. But no point resisting. I ask for them both and settle back into the zebra cushions of the settee. Gent comes over. Roberto. Sandro’s dad. Here for a few weeks. Also lives near Venice. Doesn’t speak English. We get by on my tiny Italian and fractured Spanish.
“This is what we Italians like to do,” Roberto says. “To settle in to the night and sip something and talk. We think this is perhaps new here, where people work very hard. They are not used to the idea. My son Sandro wants to introduce it. It is so nice on these warm nights.”
We talk. I sip this dee-licious cherry wine and scoop up the merlot-blackberry sorbet and cheesecake. Heaven itself may taste like this. Sound system has a guitarist playing “Blackbird.” I hope these ’Nado folk see what’s landed on their island republic. Food may be predictable. But the atmosphere’s new. Any time I can afford it, I’ll be here.
The Place: Nado Republic, 1007 C Avenue, Coronado, 619-996-3271; 619-784-4636
Hours: 11:00am – 11pm, daily (till 12am Friday, Saturday; till 10pm Sunday); closed Monday
Prices: Bruschetta antipasto (toast, olive oil), $8; armonia di sapori, includes cheese, cold cuts, dried fruits, breads, $18 (small), $28 (large); summer salad (arugula, ham, mozzarella, parmesan flakes, focaccia), $12; “Autunno” pizza (tomato paste, mozzarella, gorgonzola, prosciutto cotto ham), $12, small, $20, large; pizza fritta, estate (“summer”), with mozzarella, ham, arugula, $12; cheesecake dessert, with marmalade, $9
Buses: 901, 904
Nearest Bus Stop, Orange and C (northbound); Orange and 10th (southbound)