A Taste of NICO Kitchen + Bar

Newark, NJ

NICO Kitchen & Bar is an hidden Italian gem nestled in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, NJ. The restaurant is owned and operated by Culinaire and its acclaimed Executive Chef is Ryan DePersio.

Once you enter NICO Kitchen & Bar, you instantly feel a shift in the atmosphere as the decor exudes a restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. Although the restaurant is spacious with many tables and a tall ceiling, you still get an intimate feel from the dim lights and warm colors that bounce off the walls.

A friend and I were sat in a comfy, leather bonded booth with a spacious table just ready to be filled with delectable plates of food. The waitress explained the menu to us, as she was very knowledgeable about the menu and made several suggestions.

We ordered an array of several dishes coursed throughout our meal experience. For the first course, we ordered Pomegranate Chili Wings, Lamb Meatballs, and Polenta Fries.

The flavors of the wings with creamy gorgonzola fonduta served my palette well with the  tartness of gorgonzola, light sweetness of pomegranate, and a hint of chili spice. The succulent lamb meatballs was served in a savory tomato sauce with roasted red peppers and crumbled feta cheese. Lastly, the toasted polenta fries was golden and crisp with a creamy interior.

NICO Kitchen & Bar has a brick oven and as noted by the server that the pizza dough was a family recipe often tested and perfected so I had to try to it. So we ordered the Magherita, a classic favorite with fresh ingredients.

For our third course we ordered PEI Mussels, Grilled Lamb Chops, and Buttermilk Baked Chicken. As the entrees arrived, the aromas were so inviting. The mussels were pan roasted in spicy shellfish broth with Sardinian fregola, fresh herbs, and served with a char grilled bread to dredge up the rest. The chicken was sous-vided then baked with a black truffle pesto, accompanied with broccolini and whipped potatoes. The grilled soy-paprika lamb chops were my absolute favorite, the textures of eggplant puree, wilted spinach, and sauteed turnips served as mouthwatering adventure.

Lastly, after eating all of this delicious food I was determined to make room for dessert. We ordered the chocolate sour cream cake and sundae. I must say that I’ve been to several restaurants and pretty much always have an idea of what the dessert is going to look like but not this time. The plate presentation was both surprising and appealing. Pure genius!

Come check out NICO Kitchen & Bar for both lunch and dinner. It is ideal for large functions, after-work cocktails, or an intimate date. Great food for fair prices.

NICO Kitchen + Bar
New Jersey Performing Arts Center
One Center St., Newark, NJ
Reservations accepted  by-phone or opentable.com  
Free Parking with Validation
Lunch Hours: Mon.-Fri.: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Bar Menu available 3-5 p.m.
Dinner Hours: Mon.-Thurs.: 5-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat.: 5-11 p.m.

– Isaiah Kelsey


Cafetasia: All The Flavor Without the High Prices

Photo Credit: Eveats.com

Greenwich Village, NY

If you’re looking to grab something quick on your lunch break, a seemingly fancy restaurant like Cafetasia might not catch your eye. But that’s one of the charms of Cafetasia, it has all the ambiance without the prices. The restaurant is very spacious with plenty of seating, though sometimes in the afternoons at lunch the restaurant gets incredibly busy.

Cafetasia is a particularly good spot for lunch for one because of the large counter it has up against the floor-to-ceiling front window of the restaurant. You can sit and enjoy your food while also getting some work done.

The $8 lunch special is one of the best deals around the Lower East Side. It comes with an appetizer, with dishes like Edamame Wasabi Salad or Shrimp Shumai, and a surprisingly hearty entree. A large bowl of Pad Thai (add a side of peanut sauce to moisten it up a bit) will do you in, or one of the incredible stir fries will be sure to satisfy your taste buds. Regardless,  you will leave very full and satisfied, getting your eight dollars worth and then some.

Photo Credit: newyork-guide.net

However, if you are looking for a place for date night, Cafetasia is also a great pick during the evening. The floating candles create a hint of style and dash of flair, together great ambiance. I would recommend this restaurant for a causal date as sometimes you might have trouble hearing your date, as it can get very loud.

So come by to check out Cafetasia for lunch or dinner an at either location in East Village (8th St. between University and Broadway) and Greenwich Village (85th Ave A. at 6th and Ave A). It’s affordable even by many college students’ standards, and delicious too. Food always tastes better when it doesn’t break the bank.

Gabriela Garcia                                                                                                                            U.F.P Contributor

Beyond The Apron with DC Top Chef Alum Tiffany

Tiffany Derry, a native Texan chef made her culinary debut on Top Chef DC in Season 8. Immediately I became a fan of Tiffany because of her charming and bubbly personality. Tiffany added great energy and spirit to show that made it more enjoyable to watch.

Although she may have not won the title of Top Chef and had to “pack her knives & go”, Tiffany has been mixing up the culinary industry with her charm since then.  I was fortunate enough to grab some of her time for an interview through passing.


The Journey Begins

At what age did you start cooking?

I started cooking professionally at 15 yrs old.

Where or whom would you credit your culinary expertise to?

My taste buds were influenced by family because we ate such a wide variety of food all the time. The advanced portion of different types of cuisines came from me studying and traveling around the world.

What was your first job?

My first job was at IHOP in Beaumont, TX. I started as a server because the manager said that girls could not cook in the kitchen but eventually someone called out and I got my chance to cook. After that I never looked back to serving.

Have you been back since your acclaimed success?

I have not been back to IHOP but everytime I go home, I pass by and think about all the great memories. None of the same people are there anymore, it’s just not the same.

If you were not chef, what would you be?

If I was not a chef I would be a coach. I used to love to play sports. I played volleyball, basketball, track golf and tennis.

Any food specialities?

I love to eat asian food so in return I usually cook with alot of different asian flavors in the restaurants.


What obstacles did you face growing as a female chef?

I feel like there are alot of things we go through that is different from men. For instance, if we decide to have children it is very difficult for us to keep up the life of a chef and take care of home. I think this is why we are such good organizers. The culinary industry is mainly composed of men and you just have to grab control by first demonstrating that you can do this.

What advice would you give to  young chefs?

There will be tons of mountains, but just know that it will be alright in due time. Dont expect it to be easy because anything worth working for is so worth the reward. Learn all you can and keep your head down and keep cooking.

Top Chef

What did you enjoy the most about the show?

I met some amazing people who will be friends for life.

What was your favorite challenge and what dish are you MOST proud of?

My favorite challenge was the conch challenge, even though I was elimanted I had a blast. Just the whole ideal of jumping into water grabbing your own conch and cooking on the beach was so wonderful.  In season 7 I did chicken tamales that was sooo sooo good that I will put on my menu for the new restaurant.

Are there any regrets while on the show?

I do not have any regrets because thats just the way I live my life.

What’s Next?

How has Top Chef changed your life?

I now have to get up each day and do my hair (LOL), so many people know me from the show and they are some of the sweetest people I meet on a daily basis.

What are you doing now?

I am currently building my restaurant uptown inDallas, TX and the name will be Private Social. We are looking like it will be open in August but we will see. I am doing alot of traveling, cooking around the world with doing events and cooking demonstrations.

What’s next for Tiffany?

Two big things in life, opening restaurant and working on my own cooking show.

Until we meet again!!!