Yesterday was my birthday. It was a great day, even though I’m now officially even closer to turning 50. Bill and I usually try to do fun things on birthdays, although last year, when I turned 45, we spent a rather hellish day driving home from Belgium and got caught in multiple traffic jams. The upside is that we came home with a lot of great beer, chocolate, and fantastic memories.
This year, Bill went to work, and I enjoyed a rare imported CD on which I spent lots of cash. I also listened to my landlords cut the grass and the road workers repairing the street that runs in front of our house. The duplicate tickets I ordered for Paul Simon’s concert in Dublin next month also arrived, so I can breathe easy that we won’t be going to Dublin simply for the Guinness.
When Bill’s work day was over, he came home, presented me with a new iPad, and took me out to dinner at my FAVORITE restaurant in the entire Stuttgart area. I’m writing, once again, about Osteria da Gino in Nagold– not to be confused with the Osteria da Gino in Herrenberg, which is also a great place to eat.
If you check this blog, you will see that I’ve written about Gino’s awesome restaurant in Nagold many times. We discovered it in the spring of 2015, when I read glowing reviews on Trip Advisor. Nagold is very close to where we live and it’s a super cute town, so it’s always a pleasure to go there in any event. Dinner at Gino’s is always a treat, and not just because the food is amazing. Gino and his wife are simply awesome people, richly endowed with the gift of hospitality. I never feel like I’m a customer when I eat at their restaurant. I always feel like family… albeit family that pays a check at the end of the meal!
Below are some pictures from last night’s glorious birthday dinner!
Obligatory shot of Bill, reacting to one of my crude jokes. He’s always good for a laugh!
He gives me this look when I’m on the hot tamale train, which doesn’t happen very often these days. I did decide to get “dolled up”, though, since it was my birthday and my former English professor, who is now a Facebook friend, wanted me to post a new profile picture. I was happy to oblige.
We did not make Gino or his wife aware that it was my birthday when we made the very necessary reservations. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, because they always treat us like family. But I did tell the chef that I was “older”…
So Gino’s wife brought me a flower!
It’s not a good idea to visit Gino’s without making a reservation. In the colder months, people dine in his very small dining room, where it’s very likely that you’ll be sharing a table with another couple. In fact, two years ago, Bill and I celebrated my 44th birthday at Gino’s and we shared a table with a French and German couple. The wife was from the Nagold area and they had come to town to visit her family. It was their first time at Gino’s and, since it was raining, we ate indoors. I remember how much fun we had getting acquainted with the couple, who were raving about the food.
Last night, we had beautiful weather and a perfect temperature, so we ate outside at a two top. When outside tables are available, it’s more likely that you’ll have a table to yourself, although that’s not a given. We saw at least three couples sharing a four top in the course of our dinner. I have yet to be presented with a menu at Gino’s. He usually just offers us what he has, although I know he does have a menu. I kind of like to let Gino take the wheel. I have never once been disappointed.
Antipast! The usual orange and fennel salad and a new offering– a mixture of sausage, cheese, carrots, and red peppers…
And the rest… beautifully grilled peppers, zucchini, and eggplant, as well as burrata with fresh tomatoes, salami, prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe, cheese, and dried ham.
We washed this down with prosecco, then Gino’s wife asked us what kind of wine we’d like. Neither Gino nor his wife speak English and though we’re doing better than ever with German, we still have a long way to go. So when Bill was describing the kind of white wines we like, I said I enjoy “crisp” wines. Dutifully, Bill described it in German– knusprig– which does mean “crispy”. But really, it’s more of a word for “crunchy”– kind of akin to the cracklins on a Schweinshaxe or maybe a bowl of Rice Krispies. Who drinks crunchy wine? Well, I might try it once! Anyway, although there is really no such thing as “crispy wine”, our order of “knusprig wine” got a big laugh! The wine Gino’s wife brought us was less “crisp” and more “toast”, but it went very well with our fruits of the sea inspired dinner.
Followed by warm, lemony octopus… I do like a little octopus, but I can’t eat too much of it because it’s very dense and protein rich. But this was a nice prelude to what came next.
Normally, after we have the long antipasti phase, Gino brings out a simple pasta dish, then we have either a meat or fish main dish. Last night, Gino had fresh lobsters. He brought one out to us before he turned it into our dinner. It was still alive! I was so shocked, I didn’t get a picture of the poor, doomed soul. Nevertheless, I can’t deny that I love lobster and I am not a vegetarian. And if I hadn’t had him for dinner, someone else would have.
This was the main event… lobster with pasta and a pleasantly spicy tomato essence. While my Texas husband could stand more heat, this was just perfect for me. It was just a notch hotter than the preferred German level of spiciness, to remind us we were eating at an Italian restaurant.
Not everyone had lobster last night. We noticed some people were served clams. Some people had pasta with black truffles and perhaps a main course of osso bucco or a steak. I noticed one couple enjoying pasta with Seeteufel (a type of fish). You just never know what Gino will surprise you with… although the antipasti is pretty standard and you will never get pizza because Gino doesn’t do pizza.
I couldn’t finish all of the pasta because I knew I wanted dessert. When Gino chided me for not finishing the pasta, I said “Dolci! Dolci!”, which made him laugh. One of the ladies who works in the kitchen brought out what is pictured below…
Fresh strawberries, panna cotta, hazelnut chocolate cake, blueberry ice cream, and something very coffee flavored… Again, you never know what’s coming! We were also treated to many happy football fans, driving around Nagold blasting their horns when their teams won. The atmosphere was truly joyful.
As you can see, lots of people were enjoying Gino’s magic last night! We had such a wonderful time!
Total damage for last night’s dinner was 147 euros. We always pay cash, although Gino does take credit cards. I should mention that you don’t have to have as many courses as we did. One couple brought their tiny baby with them and only had a main course and wine. When they left the unfinished bottle on the table, the chef chased them down and corked it for them. They seemed very appreciative. One other thing I noticed was that most of the people dining last night either seemed to know each other or knew Gino well. But then, I don’t think Gino has ever met a stranger. He is really a very gregarious guy who was born to throw parties.
It’s safe to say that this is my favorite restaurant in the area and I’ve tried a lot of them. No one else offers quite the experience Gino does. We need to visit him more often.
Well… here’s my new selfie. I’m sure my English prof and everyone else who didn’t like my WTF face is happy now.
Last night’s dinner was definitely a rip roaring success. If you’re looking for a very different kind of Italian meal, I would highly recommend Osteria da Gino’s in Nagold (not Herrenberg– though again, that’s also a nice place.) Just call first, come with an open mind, and don’t be intimidated by the language. I promise, Gino will take good care of you!