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Nick's on Main

When Nick's on Main opened last year, it was an instant hit. Hungry diners crowded the tight space for a plate of chef/owner Nick Difu's upmarket comfort food. But as the saying goes, it takes years of hard work to become an overnight success, and Difu has put in his time.

Before opening his namesake restaurant last spring, Difu worked at the now closed Cafe Marcella, the Wine Cellar and 180 Restaurant and Lounge. As a result, the city has come to know him as one of its own. While he's cooked around town for years, this is the first place that is all his, and it's well suited to his generous style of cooking because of its intimacy and small scale.

"I'm not in this to make a million dollars," he says. I'm in it to enjoy myself, cook good food and do it in a town where I pretty much grew up. This restaurant has given me the freedom to do that."

Difu knows the city's appetites as well as anyone, and he has hit the mark with Nick's on Main, a relaxed but elegant bistro that's full of neighborly charm and is a showcase for his full-bore style of cooking. At its best, Difu's cooking is decadent and deeply satisfying, the kind of belt-loosening food where you chuck concerns about calories and cholesterol out the window and just revel in a meal of well-executed excess.

Nick's is a local's place where everybody seems to know each other and everyone knows Difu, who frequently steps away from the stove to walk around the bustling dining room to chat with customers. The exposed brick wall, beautiful glass facade and collection of black and white family photos add to the convivial atmosphere and call to mind a classic New York bistro.