Ricci created a trilogy of novels chronicling more than 30 years in the life of his protagonist Vittorio Innocente. The first book, Lives of the Saints (1990), is set in an Italian village in 1960, when Vittorio is 7 years old and living with
his mother and grandfather. The narrative oscillates between an insightful, mature voice and one of youthful innocence, as it richly recalls the village and its customs. Lives of the Saints won a Governor General's Award and the Books in Canada First Novel Award. Its sequel, In a Glass House (1993), is set in a southern Ontario farming community after Vittorio's immigration to
Canada with his father. Spanning 20 years, the novel recounts Vittorio's childhood, his schooling and university, and his 2 years working as a teacher in Nigeria. It explores the Italian immigrant experience and the psychological aftershocks of transcultural
upheaval. In Where She Has Gone, a 1997 Giller Prize finalist, Vittorio meets with his half-sister in Toronto shortly after his father's death, and
together they confront the past. The trilogy was adapted as a television mini-series in 2004, an Italian-Canadian co-production that drew many viewers in both countries.
In 2003 Nino Ricci published Testament, his fictional biography of Jesus Christ. Christ's life is recounted here by multiple narrators, including Mary Magdalene and Judas. Ambitious and thought provoking, Testament was praised by reviewers and short-listed for many awards, including the Commonwealth Prize for Canada and the Caribbean. It won the Trillium Book Award.
Nino Ricci won his second Governor General's Award for his 2008 novel The Origin of the Species, set in 1980's Montreal. The book chronicles the early mid-life crisis of Alex Fratarcangeli who is struggling, with the dubious assistance of his psychoanalyst, to understand past relationships and embrace new ones - including with his newly discovered 5-year old son. The Governor General's Award jury praised the novel for its "great humanity, realism and wit."