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Nino’s, Rawtenstall, the review

Danny Moran takes the last train to find a Diamond in the hills – so to speak

Published on July 1st 2010.

Nino’s, Rawtenstall, the review

Time was when Rossendale seemed like the arse end of nowhere - a kind of sprawling micropolis of shoe factories, quarries and millponds set adrift in the Lancashire hills. Unmoored between Bury, Bolton and Burnley, neither haven nor satellite, Rossendale took a long time to develop the profile which parts of it have begun to acquire in recent years.

From the cocktails menu I order a mohito (£6.50), and eventually locate the drink beneath the mountain of crushed ice in my glass. I have a fleeting flashback of Winfield’s Shoe Superstore in Haslingden, which, pioneered the Slush Puppy machine in these parts by a good ten years.

First the steam train appeared. Then the sculpture trail. The boom happened. Boutiques sprang up. The Irwell was cleaned. Footpaths were marked. Interesting restaurants opened. (Very little of the preceding applies to Bacup, by the way). And now the Witch Way bus hares confidently back and forth across the M66, and ramblers can be found everywhere from Waugh’s Well to Peel Tower. But while parts of the valley, notably Ramsbottom, have cashed in and made their mark on the culinary map, contemporaries such as Rawtenstall have been slower to make a splash.

Spring Rolls

An exception is Nino’s (245a Bacup Rd, Rawtenstall), which has grown both in size and apparent reputation over the past couple of decades. Confirmed “wag-worthy” in the nationals a couple of years back – this was around the time that local lass and emerging supermodel Agyness Deyn couldn’t get the paparazzi off her backside – the food is consistently praised (“the Ivy of the north” gushed one metropolitan hack).

To step into it you might momentarily think you’ve entered the set of a Martin Scorsese film. It’s the kind of loomy yet twinkling US-style ristorante around which the director happily trundles a camera every once in a while. Mirrors, spots, parquet flooring, granite tiles, soft, sleek banquettes...all in tasteful array. To the left, by the moodily spot-lit cafe bar, lurks a baby grand piano like a chintz monster in hiding. To the right, a bustling dining area, accommodating 150 tightly-packed diners.

As it happens, tonight is ‘Showtime’ – the show being a tribute set of Neil Diamond numbers. I’m not the biggest fan of the supper club format - I prefer to sit and yak - and I’m not the biggest fan of Neil Diamond, either. But the restaurant is full, the birthday party opposite us are buzzing, glasses are clinking, and the hum of the place is good.


There’s complementary bruschetta with mushroom and anchovy. My friend orders campari and orange (£3.80). Her holiday drink, she says, before sniffing that on the continent you get freshly squeezed (and the measures are bigger, of course). From the cocktails menu I order a mohito (£6.50), and eventually locate the drink beneath the mountain of crushed ice in my glass. I have a fleeting flashback of Winfield’s Shoe Superstore in Haslingden, which, back in the mists of time, pioneered the Slush Puppy machine in this part of the world by a good ten years.

The house merlot, Delle Venezie - at 250ml/ £3.45, an IGT which is Italy’s fastest growing ‘super Tuscan’ brand - proves a wiser, velvet alternative.

Showtime at Nino’s spells a showtime menu, we learn, which is drawn from the house specials.

That’s £24 per head for three courses. For primi piatti I order the chicken and black pudding spring rolls with chili sauce - which, on a night of thick flavours, hits the spot. The rolls are light and crisp, the thick chicken and blood sausage tender and huskily tart.


My friend’s asparagus florentine prompts the observation that there’s a certain type of restaurant where everything is sauce, as though the essence of a particular dish is enshrined solely in the suffix of its given name. Thus the ‘florentine’ is enjoyed rather less than the al dente asparagus it conceals. The observation is revisited on the arrival of her main, a tagliata of swordfish in garlic, chilli, tomato, caper, anchovy and oregano. Here though, the slightly wincing Mediterranean flavours of tomato-borne caper and olive hold precedence over the hapless fish.

For my own secondi piatti I go for the crab, which is served whole, gratinated in the shell with rice and thermidor sauce. This is rich and soft almost to fluffiness, the creamy thermidor bringing forth the fanfare of the crab’s crustacean flavours. A side of fresh veg is, like the asparagus, cooked to perfection.


Crab is of course very filling when served whole - so I’m not sure how ready I am for the chef’s homemade trifle when it appears: topped with meringue to stoutly elegant effect. Penetration through the choc-dusted meringue is rewarded with with a light, zingy, fruity sponge. But it’s a less creamy take on the traditional. An earthier, less sinful-seeming trifle, perhaps. No less sweet (in fact the soft meringue is sweet to a tee) but a bit drier and less divulging of some of the trifle’s more traditional vices.


Meanwhile, the singer sings his song: Cracklin’ Rosie, Play Me, Last Train To Clarksville. And with dinner over, there’s a slow gravitation to the dance floor from the birthday party - which is when we leave, lest the drinks bill swell fearsomely out of control.

I was in two minds about Nino’s.

It has some of what Living Room impresario Tim Bacon described recently to Confidential (click here) as that ‘liquid environment’; muted browns, golds and glassware shimmering like brandy. The live music and lunchtime loyalty cards (and not least the evident client numbers) suggest a business connecting with its market. And in an age where the local accent can enliven an HBO serial, Nino’s shows that Rawtenstall can no less do justice to an ambitious ristorante. The baby grand aspires to a cocktail pianist, though; as does the lovely interior.

Please note Nino’s only takes bookings for parties of four or more.

Rating: 12.5/20
Breakdown: 6/10 food
2.5/5 service
4/5 ambience
Address: Nino’s Ristorante Italiano
245a Bacup Road
Tel: 01706 215868

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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28 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

NortherngeezerJune 30th 2010.

That swordfish looks like someone's sh*t on the plate!!!!

AvoJune 30th 2010.

Is that really how they spelt mojito on the cocktail menu?

KapitanClefJune 30th 2010.

The swordfish looks rank. The whole place looks like a throwback. Mr Moran you have been kind in your words yet your food score clearly reveals what you feel about the place. Schofield and Gordo are a bit more blunt in their writing, you should try the same.

Peter HarrisJuly 1st 2010.

"Mohito's" in the "Ivy of the North" lol

Floss274July 1st 2010.

I think that the review is mistaken. This is one the best restaurants I have ever been to.

It beats Stock in the service alone. May I suggest that people try leaveing the city centre occassionally and try Nino's.

Rubber DuckJuly 1st 2010.

I am absolutely appalled at this review. 12.5 out of 20?????? This restaurant is single handily the best restaurant I have ever been to (that being said, I have only ever visited Ninos)

I go to Ninos at least 2 times a week and have not had a bad meal yet. My partner Laura is a bit tired of the place I must be honest given that I drag her there most weekends, and all my friends are sick to the back teeth of me going on about it all the time, however I bleedin love the place!

Please Consider re-reviewing this restaurant or at the very least removing this article. I am very influential in the ITV lighting department and am sure that I can get Jeremy Kyle to have a word or two about this on air.

AnonymousJuly 1st 2010.

I've never been to this place but given some of the rants, I'd be willing to bet that it is the finest Italian restaurant outside of Sicily and would beat Stock, San Carlo, Rosso and Piccolino hands down on both food and service.

AgricolaJuly 1st 2010.

I think it probably beats as yet undreamt of Italian restaurants into a cocked hat, in fact I've never been so excited about a restaurant I've never been to.

Leigh ScottJuly 1st 2010.

rubber duck you tool !!!!

Rubber DuckJuly 1st 2010.

Scotee, I have the same meal everytime, Chicken Caesar salad starter and for main meal chicken with salmon and spinach. Its the best thing I have ever tasted bar nothing.

Leigh ScottJuly 1st 2010.

so you want the review's score changing on the back of the fact that you have only ever visited Ninos and had a caesar salad, chicken and salmon describing it as the best thing you have ever tasted?
Sounds like a reasonable request to me !

AnonymousJuly 1st 2010.

I have visited Nino's also and live in the area. This reviewer seems more intent on writing one of those poncy 'I have an education' review over a proper food review. He sounds like the sort of person you would hate on Come Dine With Me. Nino's is an excellent restaurant and granted Rawtenstall isn't a cultural hub but he makes it sound like wooly back country!

food masterJuly 1st 2010.

why would you simply choose same meal every time? does your partner have the same too? surely you cannot comment rubber duck on the restaurant as a whole. let people have their opinions please.

FOOD MASTERJuly 1st 2010.

and why chicken for starter and for main meal every time ? clueless !

NortherngeezerJuly 1st 2010.

I too have never been to Nino's, if i dont go i wont have the caeser salad nor will i not have have chicken or spinach, spinach makes yer wee smell anyway, hang on, sorry, thats asparagus, i better not have that too eh. Now i wonder what i wont be having for pudding.

AvoJuly 1st 2010.

I've actually heard that Rio Ferdinand is a silent partner in this venture. Furthermore, if Manchester United win the Premier League this season, the team coach is going to stop in Rawtenstall for their celebratory meal rather than the usual San Carlo.

AnonymousJuly 1st 2010.

If you want a "diamond in the hills", try Emni Restaurant in Norden. Beautiful location, amazing authentic Indian food with quality ingredients and the best cocktails for miles around!

NortherngeezerJuly 1st 2010.

"Diamond in the Hills".............is that an analogy for something else................like piles.

AnonymousJuly 1st 2010.

i go to ninos on a regular basis and would highly reccomend it,the food is fantastic ,the ribs are one of my favourites and they always have a good fish selection,the service is very good and the bar staff are superb

Andrew RevansJuly 2nd 2010.

Only parties of four or more? Where am I going to find three people to dine with?

NortherngeezerJuly 2nd 2010.

Sheep shaggers parading down th'igh street rev??

DidsburyGirlJuly 5th 2010.

I grew up in Rossendale, moved to Manchester 3 years ago and can say part of the reason Nino's is so busy and popular is because there is little competition in the entire Valley in the way of Italian restaurants. Nino's in my opinion started to go downhill about 5 years ago when the owner got greedy. I know my Parents don't go there anymore and instead head to better value for money restaurants further afield.

FOOD MASTERJuly 5th 2010.

well said didsbury girl. try telling this to that rubber duck character then .

NortherngeezerJuly 5th 2010.

And i STILL think the Swordfish looks like someones sh*t on the plate!!!!.

Andrew WilkinsonJuly 5th 2010.

fair enough northerngeezer. do you try other things though? like chicken and spinach?

FOOD MASTERJuly 5th 2010.


Andrew WilkinsonJuly 5th 2010.

sorry to be a pain food master but its my mate rubber duck who always has chicken and spinach and we always are amazed at his loyalty for the place. hours of banter have now been brought on to here.

NortherngeezerJuly 5th 2010.

I'm quite partial to a Saag Wilky, unfortunatley its not an italian dish. As for the Swordfish NOT looking like sh*t.......u wanna borrow me milk bottle bottoms food master?

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