Nibble me this

Miamisburg’s Nibbles serves first class eats

By Paula Johnson

The name of Nibbles, an intimate fine dining restaurant located in Miamisburg, might be slightly misleading. Nibbles implies, according to the dictionary definition, “to bite gently, to take smaller hesitant bites in very small quantities; sort of like dabbling, lacking in serious intent,” almost dilettantish. But what Nibbles serves are serious eats, and I almost wish I could add the word “Chez” in front of the Nibbles to better connote what’s going on in Chef Maria Walusis’s kitchen.

Crowded house

I’ve used the word intimate to describe the first floor of the converted house where the restaurant’s dining spaces and kitchen are located. Open Thursday through Saturday only, seating is limited to 35, so a reservation is highly recommended. Indeed, it’s not the most ideal of spaces. When at capacity it can feel a little cramped. Even the kitchen is tiny, leaving room for just the chef and a sous chef. It’s not a place you will go to savor expansive dining room vistas or hushed private booths. You will go to savor the food.


Chef Walusis (or Chef Maria as she refers to herself) has had an odyssey of a journey to arrive where she is today, owner and chef of her own restaurant. Talking to her made me think of a few parallels with the life of Julia Child, both women deciding on serious cooking as a career a little later in life. Walusis worked in the dental field as a hygienist for 20 years before pursuing her dream, employing a European style apprenticing approach instead of the more typical culinary school route.

Offering her services in exchange for learning, she began her career change at L’Auberge, a well-known Dayton restaurant (now closed). For the next eight years she exposed herself to different styles of food and culinary techniques and gradually built up a catering and pastry business.

“I offered myself as a gun for hire in the best kitchens all over town,” she says. “In the process I learned how to work the line and run a station. And I read every book I could find on food and cooking.” Judging from the meal I tasted, it shows.

Fessing up

Full disclosure on my Nibbles visit—I had already met Chef Maria and her husband, who serves as host, at a tasting event, as had the friend who joined, PIP (Palate In Progress), and me for dinner. Normally when I review a restaurant, I do it anonymously to accurately reflect the experience in an unbiased way. There was no way to do this undercover. However, what surprised me (and spoke highly of the restaurant’s operation) was that our entire meal was prepared by the sous chef, as Chef Maria had a holiday catering event the night of our visit.

The small menu changes regularly and seasonally. That evening’s offerings reflected the best of fall/winter holiday fare. We began with three appetizers, a Terrine of Pork ($12) house made with pork, chestnuts and micro herbs, the Shrimp Flambe ($15) with Cognac, lemon and cucumber, and one that I was most excited for: Foie Gras ($18). It arrived pan seared over savory rosemary Brioche french toast, with Luxardo cherry syrup, peach compote and pickled cranberries. The Terrine and the Foie Gras were both standouts, ample portions beautifully prepared and artfully plated. Rich, sweet, unctuous—these are the words usually applied to foie gras, and this dish was no exception with its caramelized surface giving way to a luxuriously melting interior. The least successful of the three was the shrimp. Though definitely the most dramatic, (who doesn’t like table side pyrotechnics?) there wasn’t enough going on flavor wise to make the dish stand out, particularly when up against the excellent foie gras and terrine. Also offered as appetizers were Roasted Marrow ($12) and a Holiday Party Cheese Ball ($11).

A festive Red and Green Salad ($9), and French Onion Soup ($8) featuring brandy and a local Swiss cheese were up next. PIP never tires of onion soup. He tries it everywhere we go, and is mostly always disappointed, finding it a salty one-note symphony. This soup sang to him, and left him searching no more. We were pleased with the salad, which incorporated herbed goat cheese, walnuts and a tangy pomegranate vinaigrette.

We were able to try three of the four entrees offered. The one we didn’t try was a Salmon Fettucini ($27), with seared Faroe Island salmon over pasta with a saffron cream sauce. The blustery cold night had us all in the mood for hearty meaty dishes so duck, lamb and beef won out. My Rack of Lamb ($32) with chestnut bread pudding, roasted winter vegetables medley, pistachios and whipped goat cheese could not have been more perfect, both in combination of complimentary flavors, and in preparation. PIP’s straight-ahead and simple Pan-Seared Prime Ribeye ($34) served with creamed spinach and roasted potatoes also hit the mark, with the seared steak’s beefy robust flavors and buttery mouth feel.

Duck dynasty

Our dining companion selected Confit of Duck ($29) served over white bean cassoulet, accompanied by a Brioche crouton. Deep umami rich flavors, tomato glazed beans and savory shreds of tasty duck meat left us all sighing. Confit is one of duck’s most famed preparations, produced by a centuries-old process of preserving the duck with salt and herbs and cooking it in its own fat at a low temperature for up to ten hours. This dish was full on rustic comfort food with a touch of elegance.

Despite the richness and abundance of our dinners, the desserts could not be missed. Chef Maria is particularly fond of pastry, and considers it to be one of the areas in which she shines. She began her pastry business by baking desserts and offering them to area wine bars.

“I just showed up with them and said see if you can sell this,” she recounts.

I had the pear tart, featuring poached pears resting on a flaky crust and a mound of piped pastry cream. Our companion sampled the silky Gran Marnier infused Creme Brûlée. Indeed the pastry force is strong with this one.

Nibble worthy

This is a restaurant that deserves a visit, and to be put on your regular dining rotation, a perfect way to sample Nibbles’ changing seasonal menu. Chef Maria Walusis not only has an inspiring story, but she serves some inspired food, and I would encourage you not to wait for that next birthday or anniversary to try it. As Chef Maria puts it, “I don’t want the restaurant to only be thought of for special occasions—I want us to be the place to go for just a Thursday night dinner.” I would add that you would be having a most excellent Thursday if you do.

Nibbles is located at 105 S. Second St. in Miamisburg. For more information, or to make a reservation, please call 937.802.0891 or visit

Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at

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