Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Giano's Sultry Italian Eats

One of my favorite neighborhoods to explore, besides Astoria is the East Village, more or less for the same reasons - diversity and uniqueness of food.  That's why I was delighted to be invited to a press dinner at Giano, a quaint and contemporary Roman restaurant run by two genuine Italians, Paolo Rossi and Matteo Niccoli.

I can almost always expect a level of uniqueness and intrigue out of an East Village spot, and Giano is no different.  Located on a delicious block, with other heavy food hitters such as Pylos, Caracas Arepas Bar, Table Verte, Butter Lane and others, Giano is in good company. 

Loving its open air atmosphere, which boasts an open facade and a lovely backyard garden, Giano occupies a cozy, comfortable space.  The inside is modern, with a few rustic touches such as exposed brick walls, wooden wine racks and vintage mirrors, while there's also a few modern elements such as the deep red ropes that separate the front and back of the house.  Our party sat at a long communal table that allowed for a lot of cross chatter and the acoustics were good so you don't feel like you have to shout.

Appreciating the way the tasting menu was paced, our courses were very much a smorgasbord of the regular dinner menu, just in smaller portions.  I liked the portion control a lot, since in this way, I was able to try everything without getting excessively full.  Here are my stand-outs:

Grass Fed Meatballs - Even though this may appear to be a simple, Italian staple, it was executed really well.  The sauce was rich with a nice amount of acid, and evidently something that was homemade.  I loved the way it permeated the already moist meatball that surrendered upon contact with your fork.

Medieval Pasta - I couldn't stop talking about this dish during and after I ate it, clearly making a big impression on me.  Overall, I think it's the most unique item on the menu and something that should be celebrated.  Consisting of thick homemade spaghetti enveloped in a flavorful lamb ragout, it's every pasta lovers' and carnivores' dream.  A delightful crunch of walnuts that were interspersed throughout the sauce made each bite extra special.

4 Cheese Gnocchi - Another successful rendition for all you carbies out there, the 4 cheese gnocchi was also divine.  Loving the soft, pillowy texture of these potato dumplings, the four tangy cheeses including gorgonzola, parmesan, fontina and ricotta set us over the edge.  Just a little portion of these were enough to satisfy the cheese lover in us.

Cappuccino Dessert - Although the name of this dessert sounds ordinary, it was anything but.  A thoughtfully stacked cup of coffee gelato, paper thin wafer cookies, ricotta cream and cinnamon coffee foam, it made for an elegant nightcap.  The wafer cookies were an especially nice touch of texture that came unexpected.

Service and Cost:
Reflecting its intimate setting, the service was also very personal and welcoming.  Paolo and Chef Matteo spent a lot of time with us, ensuring that they answered all questions and provided their unique commentary about each dish (and wine). I was also glad to see that they graciously accommodated one of our gluten free dining comrades with slightly tweaked versions of each dish.

Costs are wallet friendly and offer a nice option to dine in style without breaking the bank:

Antipasti - $10.95 - $13.95
Pasta - $12.95 - $16.95
Secondi - $19.95 - $22.95
Dessert - $7.95

3 Mmmms

Giano - 126 East 7th Street, New York NY 10009
L Train to 1st Avenue

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