So long, Tom Barber. You were a restaurant legend and your legacy will live forever.
“Food is Love,” was Tom’s mantra at the popular Nino’s Italian Restaurant in North Ridgeville’s Mills Creek Plaza (32652 Center Ridge Road).
No one had the knack of making customers feel at home like Tom. With a ready smile and a ready joke, Tom knew everyone by name and would take a few moments to sit with them whenever they visited.
Nino’s celebrated 30 years in 2021, and Tom never strayed from the authentic Italian recipes he learned from his grandmother in “Nana’s Kitchen.”
When Tom turned the reins of his restaurant over to niece Lori and nephew Dustin when he retired last year, he made sure all the traditions stayed in the family. It was all old-school.
Or, as Tom liked to joke, ‘I am old school, Lori is middle school and Dustin is new school.”
All jokes aside, Nino’s has never strayed from the family recipes that have never changed over the years. Tom always came to work early to start the sauce, and Dustin, now head chef and owner, started at Tom’s side when he was just 14.
Staples like Nino’s famed Italian Wedding Soup and signature Spaghetti and Meatballs have stayed faithful to Nana’s original recipes.
Tom also liked a fine wine, and was known for pairing his recipes with the best local distributors had to offer. He also hosted wine tasting, offering multi-course meals with a variety of wines for an evening of epicurean delight.
Tom also offered scrumptious and generous desserts, more than enough for customers to request take-home boxes. It was a Nino’s tradition!
“Come hungry,” Tom used to say. “Our portions are huge!”
Almost as huge as Tom’s heart. Rest in peace, Tom Barber, you will be missed.
Testimonial – Even though I wasn’t your blood relative you always told me I was family to you. I worked next to you in the mornings for about 6 an half years and we always had fun in the kitchen. I had no clue what I was doing when you hired me as a cook. Your family taught me so much about cooking and I’ve realized it’s my passion over the last couple years. This man loved his family/ninos family with all of his heart. Everyone always said Ninos was his baby. I’m very thankful to have met you Tom and none of us will ever forget you or your hilarious jokes you would always tell us. By far the most funniest old man I’ve ever met. This man is like a celebrity to the city of North Ridgeville. We all love you Tom. Rest In Paradise – Duane Blake (former employee) Facebook.
For many years Tom placed his “Old Man in the Kitchen” column in The Villager Newspaper including an “Old Wives Tale” along with one of his personal recipes. In Tom’s honor we share some of his “Old Wives Tales” and along with one of his popular recipes:
- “There are good ships and there are bad ships, but the best ships are friendships.”
- “The trouble with being a grouch is that you have to make new friends every few months.”
- “The right angle for solving a difficult problem is the ‘try-angle.’”
- “Good character, life good soup, is made at home.”
- “Some people are making such thorough preparation for rainy days, that they aren’t enjoying today’s sunshine.”
- “Anger makes your mouth work faster than your mind.”
- “Your life is like a coin, you can spend it any way you wish, but you can only spend it once!”
- “The only time to eat diet food, is while you’re waiting for the pasta to cook.”
- “Take some time and reach out to your friends and neighbors”
Hot and Sour Chicken Soup
2 Cups Water, 2 Cups Chicken Broth, One 10oz. Fully Cooked Chicken Breast cut into pieces, 1 Package (about 7 oz.) Chicken Flavored Rice and Vermicelli Mix, 1 Jalapeño Pepper minced (wear rubber gloves when cutting pepper), 1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce, 1 Tbsp. Lime Juice, 1 Tbsp. minced Fresh Cilantro, 2 Green Onions chopped
Combine water, broth, chicken, rice mix, pepper, green onions and soy sauce in large sauce pan. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in lime juice and sprinkle with cilantro. Makes 4 servings.
Take care everyone! Old Man in the Kitchen here, Tom.