Nico’s Little Italy celebrates expansion with ribbon cutting

Nico's Little Italy expanded to include the new Lazio Room. The space was commemorated with a ribbon cutting, and can hold up to 37 guests. (Kelsey Chellberg | Collegian Media Group)

The smell of pasta and cannolis poured from Nico’s Little Italy as the crowd counted down the ribbon cutting for the small restaurant’s new expansion. The grand opening commemorated the launch of the Lazio Room, located in the old ZL Smoothie store.

The ribbon cutting was promoted by the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, a local non-profit working to support local businesses in the Manhattan area. Jason Smith, president of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, hosted the ribbon cutting on behalf of the organization. The chamber also livestreamed the event.

“We are thrilled to be in Aggieville to celebrate the expansion of one of Manhattan’s most popular restaurants,” Smith said. “Hopefully with this expansion we’ll be able to accommodate more people.”

Nicolette Unruh, operating partner at Nico’s Little Italy, said the business was looking to expand ever since it opened in Oct. 2020.

“We needed more space to accommodate the growing business,” Unruh said. “We’ve just been waiting for the right time.”

According to Unruh, Nico’s can now hold up to 122 guests, up from its previous capacity at 85.

“We’ve hired more staff up front to help out, and we’re still looking to hire more in the kitchen,” Unruh said.

Montana Heacock, a server at Nico’s, said the room’s remodeling process took one month and 25 days.

“They started the week I got hired,” Heacock said. “When I came in to apply it was just ZL’s old spot, and when I started it was getting remodeled.”

Nico’s usually doesn’t take reservations and seats parties of all sizes on a first come, first served basis. With the expansion, that’s no longer entirely the case.

Connor Moore, who has been bartending at Nico’s since it opened, said the Lazio room can be reserved over the phone as long as customers agree to pay a drink and food minimum.

“The minimum amount will vary depending on what time and day the reservation is at,” Moore said. “For example, if it’s during peak times, the minimum will increase.”

According to Moore, only one party can reserve the room at a time, and the restaurant’s leadership is developing a system for guests to deposit that money in advance.

“From the very beginning we knew we were going to take everything slow,” Unruh said. “Now we have community support to keep figuring things out to serve the community.”