An Italian Classic

By Andy Hachadorian

Good Italian food. That’s what I’m talking about. Not a chain or franchise place. But a good, local family-oriented restaurant that takes pride and passion in the food it serves. They do exist but you need to do a little digging and ask lots of people for suggestions.

Then you just jump in and give them a whirl. Sure I have some favorites from South Philly to Delaware and Montgomery counties. And now I’ve another one I truly enjoyed.
Trattoria San Nicola. There are two locations — 668 Lancaster Avenue, Berwyn and 4 Manor Road, Paoli. Recently, I visited the Paoli location. The building is nestled just off of Route 30 and is warm and inviting.

The restaurant is owned and operated by husband and wife team Vito and Cristina Giannandrea. Vito was nice enough to answer some questions about his restaurant.

CC: What makes you want to make your restaurants so different? You obviously are passionate about the culinary arts as well as art? And what has been the response?

Vito: Our family’s heart is invested in our restaurants. We strive to make it the best possible experience that we can. Cristina, my wife, is involved in many aspects of running the restaurants, including the marketing and art-related events. She’s an artist as well, and the restaurant is a platform. Cuts in local arts funding have driven and inspired Cristina to use the restaurant to promote the arts in the area. The response has been extremely positive. We hold several art-related events throughout the year. For example, every August we host Opera evenings which feature local aspiring singers. It energizes the artists, who have the opportunity to present their talents to new audiences, and many guests came for multiple evenings. We’ll be holding the Opera evenings again this August.

CC: What is it that you want to bring to your work as a restaurant owner?

Vito: It’s really important to me that there is consistency, quality, service, and ethics.

CC: If you had to tell a customer one thing, what would it be?

Vito: I would thank them for their patronage; we have many guests that have been loyal to us for years. I would also say that we really strive to provide the best quality and value.

CC: What have you done to deal with a economy that took a downturn over the last 18 months?

Vito: We try even harder to stand out from the competition and do special things for our regular guests.

CC: Do you still have the same passion now as when you started? What is it that keeps you driven?

Vito: Yes, I still have the same passion. One thing that keeps me going is to hear the positive feedback from guests, to know that they’ve enjoyed my food and the San Nicola experience. My ambition for success also drives me.

CC: Does it bother you that some people will go to chain and franchise eateries (without trashing them obviously)?

Vito: No, it’s only fair that people patronize other businesses.

CC: You have a family, how do they handle the commitment of owning a restaurant with the long hours, etc.?

Vito: Everyone in the family understands that it’s our livelihood and we’re committed to seeing our restaurants succeed.

CC: Do you have a favorite dish to prepare?

Vito: Definitely the Lasagna de Crespelle alla Bolognese. It’s a favorite that guests order often. People love this version of lasagna, because it’s made with crepes instead of noodles, making it much lighter.

CC: Where do you go or how do you come up with new offerings?

Vito: As often as possible, we travel back to Italy – to my hometown of Bari and around to other regions. It’s always an opportunity to taste new dishes and discover new preparations. I also read a lot of cookbooks, watch cooking shows and experiment.


PAOLI, Pa. – (March 2, 2010) – Trattoria San Nicola, one of the Main Line’s premier Italian restaurants, will host its final regional wine dinner at the Berwyn location on Thursday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m. After 15 years of immaculate service, delectable food and fond memories, San Nicola will close its doors at the Berwyn location at 668 Lancaster Ave. Owners Cristina and Vito Giannandrea will continue serving up their fine Italian cuisine and relaxed ambience at their second location in Paoli on Route 30. The Giannandreas thought the wine dinner would make an opportune event to give thanks to the community for their years of patronage.

“This is a celebratory occasion, to let our customers know how much we appreciate them and to let everyone know this is not goodbye. We have such a great following in Berwyn, but we were unable to agree on terms of a new lease at the Berwyn location. So for now, we will concentrate our efforts on our newer, larger location”, said Chef Vito. “We are planning a few other closing activities at the Berwyn restaurant, including a ‘Thank You Week’ set for early spring.”

As much as it is known throughout the community for its authentic Italian flair, San Nicola is also recognized for its generous involvement in the Arts. Since its doors first opened in 1995, the restaurant has hosted many special events at the Berwyn location, including several regional wine dinners each year. The wine dinners, originally designed to explore the distinctive cuisine found in each of Italy’s 20 regions, have proven to be extremely popular and have developed a loyal following.

Guests attending the “Farewell Regional Wine Dinner” can celebrate favorite dishes from past wine dinners, which will be paired with new and exciting wines from regions all over Italy. The menu for the evening includes sautéed eggplant, tomato and buffalo mozzarella napoleon with basil caviar; Black Ink Linguini with shrimp, mussels and crabmeat in a spicy pomodoro sauce; and Beef Short Ribs braised in a Barolo wine sauce served atop garlic mashed potatoes.

The five-course meal, paired with wine, is available for $65 per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by calling 610-296-3141. Complete menus and other information about Trattoria San Nicola can be found at