GianMarco’s celebrates a decade of fine dining excellence.
By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
It is difficult to believe that I have been dining at and reviewing GianMarco’s Restaurant for 10 years. Seems like yesterday that I had my first dinner here. Kevin and I shared Marco’s Four Cheese Torta appetizer, and entrees of Tuscan Style Grouper and Spaghetti with meatballs and sausage. Tonight all three of these dishes are still on the menu. Indeed, not a lot has changed at GianMarco’s during the past decade—because the Respintos had it right from the beginning. Still family owned and family operated GianMarco’s remains one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. They serve the highest quality Gulf seafood, delicious meats, and authentic Italian fare with portions that are substantial but prices that are not.
Brothers Giani and Marco Respinto, with their father, Giovanni opened GianMarco’s Restaurant to immediate success in March 2003. None of the three owners have an official title. They all three do can do and are found doing it all. Yet they credit long term staff including Michael Brady, who has been here since the beginning, along with Juvenito Peralta in the kitchen and front of the house, Cagle Rochester and Peyton Hooper—who has taken over the wine ordering and wine shop—for their success in preparing and serving this expansive three page menu and ever evolving wine collection. And our server tonight is also a familiar face, who has served us for the past eight years, Randy Sparks.
GianMarco’s is located at 721 Broadway Street in a Homewood neighborhood. You enter through its separate bar where walls are filled with reviews from various publications and patrons fill the bar stools and bar tables. The dining room is to the right boasting an open kitchen bustling with culinary activity. Tablecloth draped, candle lit tables dot this space surrounded by oil paintings. And behind the restaurant is the wine bar and retail shop, GianMarco Wine, which opened in 2011. Here you can select wine from the retail racks and enjoy it at their wine candle lit barrel tables and at the Wine Bar—for the retail shop price—or buy a bottle to take home. The full dinner menu is also served here.
Tonight’s dinner begins with fresh hot bread—dark and white with our own bottle of olive oil. From the extensive wine list we select a bottle of food friendly Patient Cottat Vieilles Vignes Sancerre 2010. In addition to the wines by the bottle, the wine list also offers many by the glass and by the quartinos for those dining out together who do not share the same taste in wine.
While the appetizer special of half-baked and half-fried oysters sounds tempting, I love mussels, and Kevin loves clams. So we start with the other special appetizer of Poached Maine Mussels and Littleneck Clams in a luscious broth with saffron cream. This light, delicate and succulent dish whets the appetite for our next course of creamy and crisp Caesar Salad with toasty croutons.
Tonight’s entrée specials all sound amazing: Double Cut Pork Chop with sweet potatoes, Snapper and Crab in Puffed Pastry, and Yellow Fin Tuna with Foie Gras and Butternut Risotto. But so do the regular menu items. And while I know that Giani would roll his eyes if I ordered the Shrimp Fettuccine AGAIN, I do anyway. It simply would not be a 10th anniversary if I did not eat my favorite seafood dish here—Fettuccine with butter, Parmesan, a touch of cream and Gulf Shrimp. There are no better shrimp anywhere. The freshness, flavor and unbelievable texture of these U10 Gulf White Shrimp make this a scrumptious meal that I crave too often. Four enormous shrimp are half buried in ribbons of old world fettuccine. A large spoon accompanies the dish for interactive tossing the pasta in the sauce, creating a thick rich coating on every divine noodle. Kevin’s Veal Chop Milanese is served with lemon, olive oil and crowned with a lovely Fried Egg, along with chopped salad. The tender, juicy veal’s breading provides a hearty texture, while the salad lightens the dish, and the egg yolk adds color and comfort.
For dessert, we devour a slice of delectable, creamy Chocolate Cheesecake and a divine Flourless Chocolate Torte with vanilla ice cream. We pair our chocolates with Sherry Madeira and W&J Graham's Tawny Port, while toasting the next 10 years at GianMarco’s.
Mussels & Clams, Fettuccini Paglia E Fieno with mushrooms, peas, pancetta, grana and cream, Veal Chop Parmigana with Rigatoni, Strawberry Cake
magazine, March 1, 2013, Taste column, Favorite