Hey, Neighbor

A Bay City eatery serves the Italian cuisine its parent restaurant is known for, with a healthy twist

When Nino’s Family Restaurant closes down for the summer, what are diners to do?

Why, visit the restaurant across the street, of course.

Nino’s Neighbor, a Bay City restaurant that opened in 2013, has become a hit. The restaurant serves the Italian cuisine that Nino’s Family Restaurant is known for, with a focus on using healthy ingredients.

“It’s an extension of Nino’s [Family Restaurant] with a different menu,” says Liliana Cavaliere Hintz, owner of both restaurants. “We do more grilling [at Nino’s Neighbor]. It’s lighter, healthier fare. We have gluten-free foods, homemade smoothies, [and] sorbet.”

Gluten-free entrées include the Calabrian Pork Spiedini and Tuscan-style T-bone steak. A vegan- and vegetarian-friendly Mushroom and Eggplant Spiedini is also on the menu, along with two vegetarian pizzas, the margherita and sundried tomato. All dishes are made fresh to order, and are moderately priced between $6 – $13.

Salad, garlic bread, and chicken pizza
Left: Neighbor’s house salad. Center: Garlic soffi with marinara sauce. Right: Calabrian chicken pizza

This restaurant has become a hit not only for its food, but its atmosphere, too.

With music from the 1930s and ’40s playing softly in the background, the staff moves restaurant operations outside for the summer. Diners get the chance to watch Chef Dustin Gawne prepare entrées using fresh herbs grown in an onsite herb garden, while they dine on the patio or under gazebos.

A guest favorite, the Nino’s Neighbor Special Pizza, is one menu item that Gawne prepares made-to-order on the grill. The pizza is topped with pancetta, spinach, tomato slices, fresh herbs, and Nino’s mozzarella cheese blend, and costs $9.

“It has that unique char flavor that you can only get from a grill,” says Hintz.

Although the restaurant’s atmosphere is casual and picnic-like, Hintz says this is by no means a grab-and-go type of place. Eating at Nino’s Neighbor is still a dining experience.

This year, Nino’s Neighbor is expanding, adding a bar and more seating for year-round dining.

Nino’s Neighbor
1623 Columbus Ave, Bay City
989-460-2792
Hours: Monday – Saturday (4 – 9 p.m.). 

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