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Posted: Wednesday July 20, 2011, 1:10 PM

Starters is a first look at recently opened restaurants. It is meant to be a descriptive glimpse, not a critical review.

Heading up Nicole's Ristorante is a duo whose experience in the business comprises both a culinary family and a career in local restaurants. Opening up in the former space of a traditional Italian spot, they say their menu takes small detours from that style.

"We've tried to keep Italian as our baseline and take it from there," said Nicole DeCarlo, one half of the pair. Just a few doors down in the same Bogota strip, DeCarlo's parents own Boxcar Bagel & Deli. The chef at Nicole's is DeCarlo's fiancé, Matthew Tirri. Previously a chef at Market Basket in Franklin Lakes, Tirri was also executive chef at Ruga, an American continental restaurant formerly located in Oakland.

The 86-seat Nicole's opened on Oct. 28 at the former location of Buon Amici, which closed in September. DeCarlo said a quick renovation entailed updates to the space, such as changing carpet to tile. The central dining room is one large, warm-toned space painted a creamy, muted shade of mauve. White tablecloths top a variety of medium-sized tables.

An early favorite is the pork chops arrabiata, made with cherry peppers, roasted potatoes and bacon lardoons. Rice balls, which weren't on the original menu, have been requested so much that Tirri made them an option in the appetizer section of the specials menu, alongside an onion tart prepared with Romano cheese and clams in white wine sauce.

Another regular entrée is shrimp risotto with calamari, cherry tomatoes, peas and Parmesan. Crab linguini is prepared with spinach in a light tomato cream sauce.

Weekly specials have included fish and chicken, such as filet of sole Florentine with whipped potatoes in white wine cream sauce and sautéed chicken with roasted peppers and goat cheese in a roasted garlic demi-glace.

Other pasta dishes are rigatoni melanzana, made with eggplant, ricotta and plum tomato sauce, and porcini pappardelle with prosciutto, sweet onions and porcini cream. Regular appetizers include pesto shrimp with a white bean ragout, sliced steak with garlic and shallots and an old-school favorite, hot Italian peppers and potatoes.

Thin-crust, 12-inch pizzas are available as appetizers, or for lunch and dinner. Toppings include white (mozzarella, ricotta, fresh basil) and Mediterranean (olives, capers and artichoke hearts).

In a front section of the restaurant, a separate 12-seat café area provides a casual place for dessert, a meal and Wi-Fi. Elsewhere an HD projector is at the ready for sports games and business presentations.

Desserts include homemade tiramisù as well as Italian cheesecake, brownie cake served with hot fudge and ice cream, carrot cake, coffee cake and cannoli prepared with filling made on the premises.

Nicole's runs a $9.95 prix-fixe weekday lunch special from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and a $14.95 dinner special from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.

Nicole's Ristorante

* 10C River Road, Bogota; 201-880-7270; nicolesris torante.com.

* Italian-American; entrées $16 to $24.

* Open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Open for dinner from 4 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 4 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Open 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday; closed Mondays.

* Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V.

* Wine/liquor: BYO.

* Parking: lot.

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