(riss-toe-rawn-tay) an Italian restaurant
Milano’s is (yet another) Greek/Italian family restaurant in Nanaimo and is located at the north end, on Aulds Rd. just by the ICBC building. Years ago it was part of the Romeo’s chain but at some point changed its name to Milano’s. If you look carefully, you can still see the shadow of the old name on their sign, and their POS terminal still spits out receipts with the name Romeo’s on them.
Under both names, the restaurant has been around for almost 20 years and has established itself as a Nanaimo standby. Somehow, we’ve never visited. Maybe it’s because it seemed a little box-restauranty to us (we detest box restaurants), or maybe it’s because we already have another favourite Greek/Italian restaurant. You know the one. In any case, someone mentioned that Milano’s had great moussaka, and we’d previously heard their pizza was great, so off we went to give it a try.
First impressions were not super strong. The décor was dated, and years of high traffic have taken their toll on the carpets and seats. The lights were kept somewhat low, which almost hid the dingy ceilings – featuring black stains anywhere there was a vent. Like most family restaurants, Milano’s is set up with booths and tables of various sizes. After a short wait we were assigned a corner booth, which was comfortable.
There is a huge variety of choice on the menu. The drinks menu includes a full bar with cocktails, beers, and wines, and although they have a few local options, they generally have stuck to the basics there. We ordered a couple of semi-local beers.
For food, there are a number of appetizers available – though most were fried or highly fattening food and not super appealing to us as starters. The dinner entrees menu is huge and there are a wide variety of options, including burgers, pizza, pasta, and a number of Greek and Italian classics. Vegetarians may find the meat-forward menu restrictive but there are plenty of pizza and pasta choices for them.
On our visit for dinner, we decided to start off win an appy and ordered the Mediterranean dip. When it arrived, it didn’t really look like much, owing to the cheap-looking shredded feta on top, but this was actually a nice dish. There was a layer of hummus, then some pesto veg, chickpeas, feta, and olives on top. It was bright and fresh tasting, while also being hearty and rich. The pita wedges provided were just the right amount, and we were quite happy with the dish overall.
For mains, we ordered the moussaka for him and an individual size spinach pizza for her. If you don’t know what moussaka is, it’s basically a casserole featuring layers of meat (in this case beef), eggplant, zucchini, and potato, with a firm béchamel on top. Milano’s Ristorante’s moussaka was… ok. The beef was a little bit bland compared to other moussakas we’ve tried. We thought it was also unnecessary to drizzle a pinch of shredded cheese on there. If you want to put cheese on it, that’s fine, but at least commit. The side salad, and the pita and tzatziki were all fine.
The spinach pizza was a winner. Standing out was the addition of egg to the spinach and cheese. This had the effect of making it into almost like a quiche on pizza, which actually turned out quite delicious! There was plenty of garlic and cheese, and just right right amount of salt. The crust was crackly and not dry. Overall we were quite impressed not only with the idea behind this pizza but also its execution.
We were quite full from our meals and decided to skip dessert. The total then with taxes and a modest tip was $91. We consider this good fair value.
The service we received was a mixed bag. The hostess who greeted us was very warm and pleasant and our server, though a bit slow, was eager to please. When paying on the way out, the person who handled the transaction seemed distracted or perhaps spaced out, which left a weak final impression. One other note – food was not particularly prompt from the kitchen so give yourself plenty of time to hang out.
Milano’s is merely fine. Even so, we can see why it’s popular in Nanaimo. It’s got lots to choose from on the menu, big portions, and that sort of blue-collar upscale setting that will appeal to fans of White Spot or The Bold Knight. As with those restaurants, there is a clientele that will disagree with us and consider Milano’s to be great. That’s fine. It does have great pizza.
For us Milano’s is like the ok place your friend wants to have her umpteenth birthday dinner at and you come, but mostly because you want to see your friend and maybe have a paralyzer, and not out of any love for the food. … You get it, right?