Maybe it’s the setting sun bouncing off the old brick walls, or maybe it’s the fifteen aperitifs offered at Nicky’s Coal Fired. Perhaps it’s the simple juice glass full of deep, red wine. We’re not quite sure when the transition happens, but we know it always does. Is it that first bite of house-made Bresaola and heirloom melons? Maybe it’s all of these moments together that place us in a late afternoon trattoria in Florence, one we imagine to be our own local neighborhood treasure, that only we Americans have discovered.

How wonderful it is to be able to drive down 51st Avenue to and end up on the banks of the Arno River. Chef Tony Galzin didn’t grow up in Tuscany, he grew up a few doors down from his Italian grandmother. Nana shared her love for simple, fresh Italian dishes with her large, southern Chicago family. So, when you dine with Tony and his wife, Caroline, you dine with his Nana. You dine in Tuscany. You dine with memories.

Nickys Coal Fired Chef
Photo by Danielle Atkins

“…last week the tomatoes were so beautiful! I made gazpacho. Not really Italian, but they were so fresh, so tasty….”

Tony doesn’t just replicate his Nana’s recipes, he improvises, like any great jazz musician or Italian chef.

I want to extend the invitation to try some of Nashville’s best Italian food in a setting that might become your Neighborhood café (even if you have to drive 20 miles to get there). It certainly has become ours.


A few suggestions, though:

  • Share, share, share!
  • Start by sampling the daily preparations attached to your seasonal menu.
  • Then, order one pizza, one pasta, & one of either the Daily Catch or Daily Cut, all cooked in Enrico, the coal fired oven, named after Tony’s grandfather, Big Poppa.
  • If you need a break, wander about and let me know if you find hidden references to the classic Italian American films, Big Night and Goodfellas.
  • At this point, you won’t have room for Gelato, but order it anyway!

And if you’re not convinced after one meal, promise me you’ll come back. Nicky is always worth that second chance.