Chef/Owner, Nicola’s Italian Ristorante and Maso Pizza Bar
Nicola Gilardi tells us, “In Italy, we had so many wars, so many civilizations that came in.” All that history—and the resilience that sprang from it—got baked in.
“We learned a lot,” he says. “In the end, we started to cook with what we grow, using techniques we learned from other countries.”
Gilardi grew up in Chiavenna, Italy, near the Swiss border. He was the youngest of nine children, so he learned how to eat fast. But here in Springfield, his restaurants tempt you to linger. At Nicola’s Italian Ristorante, he serves classics like pork shank and rigatoni beneath moody lighting. At Maso Pizza Bar, you’ll find pub fare in an “everybody knows your name” atmos-phere. If you visit either location, there’s a good chance you’ll see Gilardi. He’ll greet you warmly, maybe with the traditional Italian double-cheek kiss.
He keeps his menus focused and curated so that he can deliver the freshest food. With options like seafood pasta and housemade ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach or beets and goat cheese, most people have no trouble finding something they like. But, he says, “I have people call me once in a while and ask me for stuff I don’t serve.” When people call him up with special requests, he’ll do his best to accommodate them if he can.
It’s part of running a local place, he says, and it’s consistent with how he views his restaurants' place in the community.
“When you open a restaurant, you do not own the restaurant,” Gilardi says. “Your customer owns the restaurant. Without them, there would be no business. So each individual who comes to my door owns the restaurant for the time they are here.”