Trattoria San Nicola, Paoli

4 Manor Rd.
Paoli, PA

Rating: 2 silver spoons out of five

Overall: San Nicola serves traditional Italian food that is well-prepared but lacks creativity. It is absolutely a reasonable neighborhood restaurant for a weekday meal, or someplace to take a larger group where everyone will be satisfied. For a special night, however, the lack of ingenuity falls short, especially for the adventurous eater.

Food: Standard Italian fare, simple but well-executed. Start out with the Cheese & Pepper plate, served family style ($3 per person), to enjoy homemade sweet roasted red peppers and a variety of excellent Italian cheeses. The grilled red snapper fillet served with a white wine cream sauce, roasted peppers and toasted almonds ($17.50) was a nice dish, if a tad bland. We also tried the beef filet ($21.50), grilled a perfect medium rare and served with a red wine demiglace and garnished with whole roasted garlic and fresh rosemary. The Misto di Carne ($19) offers a nice variety of sauteed sausage, chicken breast and veal tenderloin topped with a cream sauce of peas and carrots, but again is a pretty boring dish. The best dish we’ve had is the grilled salmon filet ($18) served with salmoriglio sauce (olive oil, lemon and garlic) — the salmon was perfectly crispy on the outside and tender within, and the simple sauce brought out the fish’s flavor.

TSN recently started offering a side of vegetables instead of the longtime tradition of a pasta side, perhaps in part because of the suggestion on this very page.

Ambiance: Several small rooms, decorated Tuscan-style, with windows surrounding the entire building. Because the rooms are small, it can get very loud, which can either make it seem like a hot spot or cause a headache, depending on one’s mood. There is also a small, smoke-free bar area for a quick drink and meal. The Paoli location is nicer than the Berwyn location.

Service: Pleasant and competent. A few blemishes — had to wait for a table with a reservation on a weeknight, even though there were several open tables, and one request for a minor plate change (from the menu) was not handled correctly. A few years ago at the Berwyn location, we had to wait 45 minutes for a table with reservation.

Value: The prices seem a tad high for the quality of food, especially considering the fact that they sell alcohol. One nice feature is the BYO policy — although they do have a full bar, they allow BYOW for a $10 corkage fee. Granted, corkage fees are generally evil, but when faced with paying restaurant markup or bringing a nice bottle from home and dropping an additional few bucks for the privelage, this seems to create a good value proposition.

#of times we’ve eaten there: 3
Cards: Yes
Reservations: Yes (you still may wait at busy times)
Bar: Full, BYOW with $10 corkage

15 thoughts on “Trattoria San Nicola, Paoli”

  1. We have been going here for 5 years now, but as of last night, I would rather go to McDonalds. The service, food quality and atmosphere have just completely dropped out of site here. Save your money for a place that actually wants to be in business! What a shame.

  2. Wow…I don’t even know where to start. I should have been clued in when I called the Paoli location to make a reservation, and someone answered the phone then put it down so all I heard was clanking dishes and conversation. After repeated “hello, hello, hello!!” I hung up and made reservations on Our party of 6 was seated at 6:00, it was 10 minutes before was saw a server, and we literally had to flag her down in to order after sitting with our menus for 20 minutes. At 7:00 we still had not received our salads or refills on our water. My husband went to talk to the hostess and asked to speak with the manager. Hostess and manager never showed up to talk to us. We waited another 20 minutes between finishing our salads and receiving our entrees. The server placed every plate at the wrong person, reaching across people, over people. Plates were going every which way!! The food was average at best. Bottom line it was an expensive, miserable experience. We were so looking forward to trying San Nicola because it is so close to our home. Never again. We will stand in line and deal with the noise to eat at Frankie Fellini’s, where the food is great and they really care about their customers. Thanks for letting me vent!

  3. We have been eating at San Nicola Berwyn since it opened having lived across the tracks in Berwyn where we could and sometimes did walk over. Though we have moved we still try to get there a couple of times a year. The secret to San Nicola-Berwyn is that the owner is from Bari on the Adriatic Coast of Italy, think small fishing city. You may notice some of the small pictures are of the city they are real as we recognized some of teh buildings.

    What that means is the fish and shellfish are what they do best and I have never been disappointed in approximately 30 visits. I was less satisfied with Paoli and our 3 dinners there. The deserts are wonderful and they serve real coffee. The bartender knows how to not screw up a simple Kir Royale which seems to befuddle almost every other restaurant in the area. Though I almost always have fish or fruits de mer, including a visit last month,I do recall a fantastic stuffed poulet a year or so back. Though I prefer French cuisine in general ones gets outstanding continental Italian at San Nicola.

  4. After living in center city Philadelphia and frequenting the restaurant scene fully for the last 10 years, I was eager, if somewhat hesitant, to explore the Trattorias, Bistros and brew houses of the main line following our move to Tredyffrin Twp. For our first adventure, we tried Trattoria San Nicola

    San Nicola lived up to our best experiences in town. First, the service, on a Saturday evening, was excellent throughout the evening. Second, the food was superb. For entree, I had a menu item, Linguini Veneziane, black pasta with crab meat and spices, and my wife had a daily special, stuffed veal and spinach canneloni with tomato sauce. Both compared most favorably to any of the numerous center city Italian restaurants. Third, our server knew the wine list and recommended good wine matchings for all of the dishes. And fourth, I’ve actually paid as much for a BYO in town as I did last night for dinner including wine!

    Thanks to Lauren and everyone else for an excellent first impression of main line dining.

  5. We were at San Nicola the other week, and it was great. A must visit!! Great food, service was very friendly and willing. Love their crab soup. Cannot wait to return

  6. We ate at San Nicola Sat night, and we had such a spectalcular meal my wife and I had to let everyone know about it. I started with the tomato crab soup which is out of this world, and followed up with the best veal chop ever!! It was so tender and moist, I never can get it to come out that way at home. My wife had the San Nicola salad which I tasted and it was incredible, she then had the lasagna, which was delicious and different then the other Italian restaurants claiming to be “Italian”. Then to top the dinner off we had a limoncello and a tartuffo. They were heavenly. A must go to restaurant with great atmsophere, great service and great food.

  7. Recently ate here for the first time and left underwhelmed overall. While the staff were courteous, we did not have to wait (had a 7:00 reservation on a weekend), and the food is relatively inexpensive considering the location, I was less than impressed with the fare. The bruschetta was phenomenal and the limoncello I had for dessert was fantastic, but our main courses were mediocre. The chicken saltimbocca was drowned in sauce that completely overwhelmed the dish, making it hard to taste the proscuitto or provelone. My girlfriend’s veal had the texture of salisbury steak and was very chewy. While they were both palettable, neither was spectacular nor appealing visually. Probably would not go back.

  8. I agree with Ramondo H and Jeanne S. as well. My husband and I dine at the Paoli location and have NEVER received a bad meal, both lunch and dinner. We also do take out and the food is just as good. I’d give them 4 spoons as well.

  9. I’m with Ramondo H. on this one. We recently brought friends to the Paoli restaurant and they were shocked at how inexpensive dinner for four was! They have one of the most reasonably priced wine lists on the Main Line. What I like about their Italian cuisine is that the emphasis is on simple grilled fish and fresh salads, as opposed to heavy red sauces and entrees smothered with cheese. If you want spaghetti and meatballs, go somewhere else. But if you want to eat like the Italians do in the “old country”, this is the place!

  10. Couldn’t disagree with you more. Having dined many times at both Trattoria San Nicola locations, I have never been disappointed in the food. It is always fresh, always served at the proper temperature, and certainly not overpriced in my view. You rate them much differently than I. Were I a food critic, both TSNs would get, and deserve, at least four spoons.

  11. Although we are aware of the difference between a trattoria and a ristorante, we have always left TSN with the feeling that what we had to eat just wasn’t all that great. There is nothing wrong with simple fare, but it must be fresh, flavorful and well prepared. At TSN, the food it is fine, but is not spectacular by any means and is generally overpriced for its quality, hence the 2 rating.

  12. I have always had a great meal at both locations. I am from Italy and go frequently in order to have good food like in my country. The word trattoria means that the restaurant is a step down from a ristorante, and is supposed to offer simple classic dishes rather than off the wall stuff. I think they deserve at least 3 or 4 spoons, 2 is an insult.

  13. The food I’ve had at San Nicola hasn’t been bad. But I think they could use more choices. It seems almost odd that they don’t offer any basic Italian dishes like ravioli or tortellini — and I don’t think there’s a single meatball offered on the menu. Nonetheless, the veal dishes I’ve had have been quite nice. It’s a basic weeknight restaurant for comfort food in my book…

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