May 21, 1978

January 19, 2003

 

“Going to Chick and Nello’s Homestead Inn makes me wish I were Italian. Then, when a waiter in rough white shirt and black pants clomped over to recite the menu, I wouldn’t have to ask him to repeat it because I would know that food in my bones.

 

But I’m an un-Italian, and I’m glad those men are stoic. How else would I discover that I liked lima beans with tomato sauce and tender meatballs, or anchovies draped over asparagus? Those are not everyday restaurant dishes, but Chick and Nello’s isn’t your everyday restaurant.”

 

 

 

May 25, 2016

 

 

Chick & Nello's Homestead Inn thriving in Hamilton

 

FOOD: Very good to excellent Old and New World  homestyle Italian dishes.

 

SERVICE: Pleasant and knowledgeable.

 

AMBIANCE: Renovations are planned but in the meantime it is reminiscent of a family dining room in an old farmhouse with waiters in semi-formal black ties and white shirts.

Dinner is “always a surprise” at this “old-fashioned” Italian in Trenton because there are no menus – patrons dig into whatever the kitchen decides to make, and it’s usually “wonderful”; sure, the setting’s decidedly “not fancy” and service is better if they “know you”, but ultimately the overall “charm makes up for its failings.”

 

January 30, 2008

 

As restaurant reviewers, the two questions we hear most often are: “What’s a good place to eat” and “Does the restaurant know you’re doing a review?” We’ll answer both this week. First: the Homestead Inn is a very good place to eat. Second: No. We use a different name when we make reservations and make notes only surreptitiously; the restaurant staff does not know we’re there for a review.

 

Except this time. As soon as we entered, we encountered friends who asked — not quietly — if we were reviewing that night. Peter Rosati, serving as head waiter, must have overheard the comment, because he announced, “The kitchen just closed.” Responding to our surprised looks, he quipped, “We’re allergic to reviewers.”

 

The staff is like that at this quirky restaurant widely known as “Chick and Nello’s,” in honor of its founders. The bantering is contagious and table-to-table conversations ensue. “We’re family,” says Mr. Rosati.

 

Imagine if there were an Italian restaurant, perhaps in Trenton’s old Chambersburg neighborhood, and it were frozen in time for 30 years. There’d still be the same linoleum on the floor, the same wood paneling and fading wallpaper, the same staff, the same food, the same pictures on the wall, and the same people patronizing it. Well, fortunately, you don’t have to imagine. Because there is Chick and Nello’s, just a short drive away from Trenton.

 

… The food is reminiscent of a great old Italian opera–it’s classic, never-changing, and simply divine. There is no menu, and so if you are new you’re going to have to listen to your waiter recite all of your options before you decide. Sit back and relax, because it’ll take about five minutes.

 

… Come here for the food, but it’s the environment that really makes this a transcendent experience. The dining room itself is positively mouthwatering, and everything contributes to the effect: the appetizing descriptions, the divine drinks (yes, they have a full bar), and the luscious smells that waft out of the kitchen. It’s a perfect combination of surroundings and sustenance.

Click here to hear Giacomo and Peter Rosati discuss the Homestead's traditional spoken menu, on this

BBC Radio 4 documentary on menu design.

January 26, 2009

 

On the regulars ...

 

Giacomo: At one time, I'd say about 90 percent of our clientele was the same 125 people. And then there's one family, the Switliks. Four generations have been coming here, and they're here every day for lunch. They eat in the kitchen.

 

Specialties of the house?

 

Giacomo: Our staples are pastas with various sauces, and we're known for our roast chicken, meats over a wooden charcoal grill and our daily specials.

 

On changes in the near-70 years since the restaurant opened ...

 

Erine: Well, we just got credit cards.

 

Giacomo: Six weeks ago.

 

Ernie: Biggest change was adding our sons to the business. And turning the bar area into one room instead of two. We don't do a beef stew anymore. Not a lot of changes.

 

If the walls could talk?

 

Peter: They'd have to go to confession.

 

Jeff Edelstein