REVIEW Little Nicky’s New York Pizza

Little Nicky’s New York Pizza 3/3/2016
Knoxville, TN

I went to this restaurant to try it out after many suggestions of members in one of my Knoxville Facebook “foodie” Groups. Time and time again this name kept popping up. It was then that I knew this was a place I just had to try! If you’re looking for a fancy restaurant with table linens and metal silverware, this is not it. If you’re looking for great food with a reasonable price, then you definitely want to come here and try their food firsthand.

Upon entering the first thing I noticed was the dessert case! How could you miss it? There were so many options to choose from and, from they way they looked, I knew I would not be leaving there without a piece of the luscious cake that was staring at me and almost calling my name.

The next thing I noticed was the smell, yes, their dessert case looked so good it took mere moments to realize they had Italian food too! The smell was making me more hungry than I already was.

We were greeted by a nice woman at the counter named Stacey, I later learned that Dave, was the one quietly making pizza for take-out orders. There was so much to choose from and, when I mentioned that I had never been there before, she pulled out a separate menu special and another special. It’s obvious you can’t come and not leave without getting a lot of food for a reasonable price. We opted to go with the “Throwback Thursday” special which was the throwback of their “Wacky Wednesday” special. This consisted of a long list of items from their regular menu where you chose 5 for $25. At first I thought that there would be items that I wouldn’t want, or smaller portions, but I was wrong. There wasn’t anything on this special list that I would not have wanted, as a matter of fact, it had everything I was planning to order and more. When I got the food I realized they were regular portions. Because I was doing a review, and they, of course, were unaware, this kind of special was just perfect for me.

I ordered a 14″ pepperoni pizza, BBQ wings, spaghetti and marinara (with added meatballs), Philly cheese potato skins and pineapple princess cake.

I also asked about a sign I saw posted on the side of the dessert case. It was a sign about Paying it Forward. You might recall a news story where a restaurant in a large city began letting customers buy a slice of pizza for people who may be running short, homeless, or just was flat hungry with no money at all to pay for food. Little Nicky’s adopted this and so, here’s how it works: You “donate” $2.00 for one popular note pad with a sticky adhesive on the back (sorry but they could sue me for using the real word we all know this product by) and write whatever you want. Little Nicky’s throws in the other $1.00 (a slice is $3.00) and post this note paper on the wall with a thumb tack. What a really cool idea so I did it! (See photo on right for full details of their “Pay it Forward!)

While we were waiting for our food I noticed that the phone was constantly ringing (for take-out orders), and there was a steady business. This is a sign of a good place to eat. Little Nicky’s is that kind of place that’s not a big place. As a matter of fact, fully seated, Little Nicky’s seats only 24 people. It didn’t feel the least bit crowded though and there was ample room to move around.

It’s self-service when it comes to their canned soda, bottled water, paper napkins and plastic silverware. It’s a no frills kind of place. Being in Little Nicky’s is kind of like being in a big city “local popular” restaurant where everyone knows your name. It’s clear that the patrons of Little Nicky’s are regulars. The staff is super friendly and very knowledgeable about the menu and what’s in their food. This may seem like a given but you may be surprised to know how many restaurants I’ve visited and the servers, or counter staff, have no idea what is, or isn’t, in a particular food item.

My food arrived within about 10 to 15 minutes. I was told that the pizza wasn’t usually served in the box but that Dave, remember, he’s the guy making things happen, knew I would likely need one. Everything looked, and smelled, really delicious. I honestly wasn’t sure what I wanted to try first. Who am I kidding? I knew it was the pizza that I had to try, and fast. It was cheesy and full of flavor. As a matter of preference, I like my pepperoni a little crispy around the edges, but that’s just me. The crust, which I saw Dave kneading for another pizza, is homemade and was perfectly floured. It reminded me of a pizza I had in New York City once. The sauce was really good too!

Next I tried the BBQ wings. I loved the BBQ flavor but thought the wings could have been a little crispier. Perhaps they were baked but I neglected to ask. Again, another preference because, when I normally order wings, I order them extra crispy.

And then there was the spaghetti, with added meatballs. I asked Stacey about the meatballs and was told that “Mrs.” Nicky made them. I had to laugh because it just sounded funny but that woman knows meatballs. I’d like to think it’s a family recipe from long, long ago. They were amazing (very, very moist and full of flavor). The sauce was also something fabulous. In my opinion, the worst thing any Chef can do to their homemade pasta sauce, is over-season it. I hate it when I take a bite and taste nothing but Oregano! This sauce, well this sauce was not like that at all. I’m fairly certain that what I tasted most was basil and tomato. It was perfect!

I moved onto the Philly cheese potato skins. I found the potato itself to be a little dry. Perhaps a little of the marinara sauce served on the side would be better under the toppings. It had great flavor though and I would definitely order them again! I liked the uniqueness of these potato skins as they had a variety to choose from. They also had cheddar bacon and pepperoni pizza potato skins on the “Wacky Wednesday” menu.

Finally, ah, let me lavish in the moment when I too, became a Princess. This cake, is homemade and was the single best slice of cake I have ever had in my entire life. Please, if you go there, make sure you get at least two slices. You’ll want to force yourself to eat the entire slice, no matter how full you are, as well as getting one to go; which was an afterthought and I truly wish I had this recipe. However, I would be forced to workout daily because I’m pretty sure I’d gain 5 pounds a week on just this cake alone. This cake almost didn’t happen for me. I’m a huge chocolate cake lover. But, something about this cake spoke to me so I ordered it. I was afraid it would taste too much like pineapple and nothing else. I was wrong! Way wrong! It was delicious and the most moist cake I’ve ever eaten. I would drive the 25 minutes from South Knoxville to their location just for this dessert. Nicky, never stop baking this cake!

Word got out that I was at Little Nicky’s to do a review but we were already served before they were any wise to it. I spent yesterday chatting with Dina, “aka Mrs. Nicky,” about Little Nicky’s and their history. Here’s what I learned: Little Nicky’s was started by Nick’s dad in 1978 in Wildwood, New Jersey, on the Boardwalk, and stands today run by the family. There are three other Little Nicky’s. There’s another location in Hoboken, New Jersey, one in the Bronx, and this one in Knoxville. The Knoxville location has been in operation since 2013. When I asked about what was homemade and what wasn’t, I learned it’s about 75/25; the 75% being homemade and the 25% being brought in. They are honest and will be upfront with you if you have any questions about their menu items being homemade. I will tell you that I specifically asked if the pineapple princess cake was homemade and I was elated that they said yes.
Little Nicky’s has a large involvement in their community. Just ask them and they will tell you what schools, fire stations and other community businesses they have supported over the years. This one family owned and operated business I would be happy to support!

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