Another Birthday Dinner at GianMarco’s Restaurant
By Jan Walsh
GianMarco’s Restaurant is located at 721 Broadway Street in a Homewood neighborhood. It is a Respinto family—brothers, Giani and Marco and their father Giovanni—owned and operated, authentic, Old World Italian restaurant. We have been dining at GianMarco’s since it opened in 2003. And tonight, we are here celebrating a big birthday of mine. We enter through its separate bar—where the walls are filled with reviews from various publications, including some of my own. Here patrons line the bar stools, as the full menu is served in the bar. The original dining room is to the right boasting an open kitchen bustling with cooks who pass the steaming plates of pasta to servers. We are led through the dining room to the newer dining space—the same room where I surprised Kev with a private dinner party for his 70th. At that time this space was used exclusively for private events. Yet due to popular demand, it is now connected to the main dining room, almost doubling the original size of the dining room(s) space. And behind the restaurant is the wine bar and retail shop, GianMarco Wine, which opened in 2011. We also have many memories there… selecting wine from the retail racks and sipping it at the candle lit, wine barrel tables. In addition to serving the full dinner and specials menus, GianMarco Wine is also a retail shop, so we can order from the wine menu, buy a bottle to enjoy here, or purchase wine to take home.
For a birthday toast, we order a favorite by our vintner friend, Hugh Davies—a bottle of Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé. The bubbly boasts notes of strawberry, raspberry, apricot, and watermelon, along with a bright acidity and long finish. And as we toast we spot a dear friend, whom I share a birthday with, Janet Vest, dining across the room. After birthday hugs and wishes to each other, Kev and I are ready to order dinner.
I always listen carefully for the specials before ordering at GianMarco’s. And tonight is no exception. For apps we select one from the specials menu, Zucchini Blossoms, and a favorite from the regular menu, Fried Fresh Mozzarella Bocconcino. I never pass up an edible flower… These blossoms are mozzarella stuffed, tempura battered, and deep fried. These golden nuggets are then drizzled with basil pesto. These ephemeral apps are golden and crisp on the outside, velvety and mildly earthy on the inside. The pesto adds color, another layer of earthiness, and a hint of tartness to these delicate delights. Highly recommended! We have a long held love affair with the bocconcino both here and at GianMarco’s sister restaurant, Pizzeria GM. Tonight’s version are four golden balls on a puddle of tomato sauce, enhanced with micro basil and evo. The tooth feel is fantastic as I bite through the crunch of the crust into the hot, melted and melded cheese inside. Bites of Heaven, I call them!
For entrees, we also opt for a special and a regular dinner menu dish. Kev orders the Niman Ranch Double Cut Pork Chop Valdostana. And I select the Rock Shrimp Raviolo special. The chop is cooked to order, thick and moist, layered with prosciutto and fontina in a cabernet reduction. In season, fresh asparagus and a superb al dente, cheesy, creamy, plump parmesan risotto accompany the chop. The house-made raviolo (plural for ravioli) are filled with rock shrimp folded into wasabi mashed potatoes, and tossed in a Thai style coconut red curry sauce with julienned snow peas. Sadly, I must opt out of the inclusion of shiitake mushrooms, due to allergy. Yet it mattered not. Think fusion of Italian, Southern, and Asian in this hearty dish. For those with a big appetite and an affinity for Asian heat!
For dessert we end the birthday with a special of Warm Blueberry Crisp. This hot cold dessert is topped with vanilla gelato, which melts into the blueberry like cobbler, adding creaminess to the crunch and the fruit of this dreamy dish. We leave with more birthday hugs, from the staff, and another fabulous food memory made.
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