As a Westsider who works in Calabasas, I oftentimes breathe a heavy sigh when it's time to figure out where to go for lunch each day. You can find a hidden gem here and there, but for the mostpart, you find a lot of chain restaurants & strip malls out here.
Once every week or two, I venture into Woodland Hills for a trip to Nicola's Italian Kitchen. Nicola's is not perfect by any means, and I admit to ordering the same item just about every time I go in. Here's what I like about Nicola's:
- They make a house special chopped salad with chicken, and it's pretty darn good. There is something about the combination of ingredients that really seems to work -- I think it has something to do with the raisins (sweet), pine nuts (crunchy), and sundried tomatoes (not sweet, and a little bit chewy). Or maybe it's the delicious, creamy balsamic dressing. I'm not sure, but it works. A half salad is a good lunch sized portion.
- For those of you thinking a half salad is not enough lunch, I want to bring up the second (maybe it should have been the first?) reason you might want to try Nicola's. Focaccia bread. You carb counters might be shaking your heads, but this bread just might make you reconsider your way of eating. The bread comes fresh out of the oven, and is sprinkled with a bit of garlic and parsley. A fresh, hot basket welcomes you at the table, and is refilled as you desire. Don't forget to ask for the olive oil and balsamic vinegar to go with it. This bread is the reason to keep going back to Nicola's.
- It can get loud during lunch hours, but if it's a nice day, try the patio. It's really quite pleasant out there.
- Others I've dined with have really enjoyed the pizza, Minestrone soup, sandwiches, pastas and other Italian dishes at Nicola's. I can't comment much on the Italian food (I'm too busy with the bread to worry about something like pasta), but others seem to like it.
Why am I writing about Nicola's? Well, it's not the most amazing restaurant you'll ever try, but it's a nice little neighborhood joint if you find yourself exiled to the West Valley and you'd like a decent salad and some amazing bread.
Nicola's Italian Kitchen
20969 Ventura Blvd.
(bet. Canoga & De Soto Aves.)