Sonny’s owner brings up-scale Italian to Lebanon

Lebanon residents will no longer have drive to Nashville for up-scale Italian food and the experience. That is if Nick Audino has his way.
Jul 5, 2014

 

Lebanon residents will no longer have drive to Nashville for up-scale Italian food and the experience. That is if Nick Audino has his way.

Audino opened Sonny’s on Castle Heights next to City Hall in the former Chop House location recently with the desire to bring the combination of his experiences and tastes of his Northern roots and up-scale nature of Nashville to Lebanon. 

Sonny’s menu features all fresh, in-house-made items and unique sauces. Audino believes the menu gives people a shift from the usual chain restaurants.

“Chain restaurants don’t work up North,” Audino said. “They’ve tried and they’ve failed. The people there want to know that the food was cooked, seasoned and made in the establishment especially for them, not just anybody. I feel that people here deserve that treatment, too.

 “If I go to the chain restaurant in St. Louis, it’ll be the same in Tampa. Chain restaurants are safe but it’s always the same. You won’t find a place with my lasagna, because it’s my lasagna. You’ll find things on my menu that you won’t see anywhere else. 

“There’s no life in a chain restaurant, and part of what you pay is for the experience. Which is one reason I chose this location. It means something to me.” 

The builder of Audino’s house was a former student of the Castle Heights Military Academy. Audino plans to keep the original Castle Heights artwork in Sonny’s.

The desire to be different is one reason, aside from his heritage, the self-proclaimed restaurant business rookie decided to open an Italian restaurant instead of a more Southern popular steakhouse establishment. Steak is available on the menu, however, merely due to demand.

Sonny’s menu also boasts a variety of gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly items.

“The vegetarian items are largely due to my secretary,” Audino said. “She’s a vegetarian and would tell me how she’s always tired of going to restaurants, and the only vegetarian dishes that they would have would be the salads. So I have plenty of choices for people who are vegetarian to choose from and, of course, you can’t get gluten-free dishes in a lot of places.”

Audino understands the risks of opening a restaurant, especially in the slowest part of the year for restaurants.

“I wanted to open in April, but we had to do more maintenance and stuff than I ever imagined. But it was good,” he said. “I didn’t want to rush anything. People were still telling me to wait until the fall to open because of the summer and summer holidays, but I wanted to get the ball rolling.”

After a month-long soft opening, Sonny’s grand opening took place June 27.

“The soft opening was great; it allowed for me to get feedback and suggestions and see where we could improve,” Audino said. “For example, I told my brother-in-law (the head chef) to cut back on the spices because I didn’t know how people would respond. But to my surprise, they wanted more spices.”

Audino said the best thing about the soft opening was it allowed his staff to get better at performing their job at a high level and showed them what it took to really do a great job. 

“I’m satisfied with my staff and the food, but it’s not about me. It’s about the guests,” he said. “If there’s something that they don’t like or feel is wrong, I want them to tell me about it, whether email, Facebook, Twitter, whatever. We take extreme pride in everything we do.

“But hats off to anyone who has been in this business for a long time. It’s not easy, but I don’t quit. I never quit. It’ll be open as long as people eat here. If the people want it, it’ll be here to make them feel special.”

Audino will make an announcement about returning Sunday brunch soon via social media or the Sonny’s website at sonnysoncastleheights.com. 

 

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