Beyond the pizza and pasta

Beyond the pizza and pasta

About two weeks ago, Gino’s Pizza and Pasta owner Ilir Nikqy started working out.

Coincidentally, at around that same time a few new items appeared on his menu — delicious, as would be expected from Nikqy, but also filling and healthy items.

“I’m always trying to make something new and fresh,” said Nikqy, affectionately known to his customers as “Nicky.” “I like to choose a few ingredients and create a dish out of them.”

A few ingredients he’s been playing with in the kitchen include fresh spinach, chicken breast, tilapia, broccoli, mixed peppers and portabella mushrooms.“I have people say ‘I never eat mushrooms, but I eat these mushrooms,’” said Nikqy.

These sautéed portabella mushrooms are served as an appetizer, drizzled in balsamic vinaigrette and accompanied with sautéed spinach. And it looks pretty, too.

The spring salad is also a delicious new option — a bright heap of fresh mixed greens topped with grilled chicken breast and glazed with sweet balsamic vinaigrette — quite a vision in all of its green, towering glory.

Nikqy added that Tilapia Torino has been selling like crazy since he began offering the mild white fish prepared with broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and a touch of cream. And if you’ve ever been to Gino’s, you know by now that he prepares every dish to order, adding the luxury of tailoring a dish to your personal tastes.

“I enjoy preparing food,” said Nikqy. “I do it every day,” except for his day off, which is always on Monday.

The soft-spoken gentleman from Albania started cooking 10 years ago, he said, when he began cooking for his uncle’s restaurant in New York City. He opened Gino’s in February 2010, and in his first year Nikqy has earned scores of repeat customers.

“I’ve been told I have the best lasagna in Beaumont,” Nikqy gushed, adding that all of his dishes are recipes to which he has added his personal touch.

And it’s not uncommon for Nikqy’s customers to allow him to experiment with dishes — as he takes great pride in surprising the regulars who often request “the usual, please.”

So for anyone else like Nikqy who has recently taken up a fitness regimen, rest assured that you don’t have to cross Gino’s off your restaurant circuit. Nikqy’s got lean options that fill you right up with good food, and you can always swap meat for mushrooms, pasta for peppers or create and assemble your own healthy with Nikqy’s help.Of course, if you splurge and get the lasagna, we won’t hold it against you.

Gino’s Pizza and Pasta is at 4318 Dowlen Road in Beaumont and is open six days a week, closed on Monday. For more information, call the restaurant at (409) 899-1640.