Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gee, I know this great Italian Place: Giano!

Giano Restaurant
Tonight, I was invited to try Giano and as I walked down the street past some of my favorite East Village restaurants, I was excited because to hold your own in this neighborhood, you have to be something special. I walked in and was immediately enchanted. I'm pleased because usually I don't get great interior shots, but I really love how this one captures the restaurant.

The weather is just starting to cool, so it was just a little too chilly to dine in the back garden, but it was still nice enough to leave the entire front part of the restaurant open and enjoy the evening. Our first plate of the evening was a trio of Appetizers: 

  1. Crocchette di roctta e tonno - Creamy and crunchy tuna and ricotta croquettes with arugula salad and balsamic reduction.
  2. Popette al pomodoro gratinate - Grass fed beef meatballs in tomato sauce
  3. Asparagi gratinati - Asparagus, speck, fontina cheese, balsmaic vinegar reduction
As I expected and hoped, these bites were a treat. The tomato sauce with the meatballs was simply amazing and made me super excited for the pasta course to start.

Top: Polpette al pomodoro gratinate
Left: Crocchette di ricotta e tonno
Right: Asparagi gratinati
First up of the pastas was the Bigola al ragu d'agnello e noci tostate aka Homemade Medieval thick spaghetti with slow cooked braised lamb ragout and toasted walnut powder. I have never had such thick spaghetti, I absolutely loved the texture of this. I also expected the walnut powder to be subtle, but as you can see, it was a bit coarser grained than a powder which I enjoyed because it added a nice texture and nutty taste.

Bigoli al ragu d'angello e noci tostate
Next up was the gnocchi with four cheese sauce (Gnocchi ai 4 formaggi). My first bite of this was a total epiphony. I've always heard people describe the ideal texture for gnocchi as "pillowy" and always thought "Ok, yah sure, they are soft, and pillow shaped". It wasn't until now that I really understood how light they can be. I would almost describe it as a marshmallow. Amazing. Add in a rich sauce of fontina, gorgonzola, parmesan, and taleggio and you have a real winner. 

Gnocchi ai 4 formaggi
For our final pasta dish we got to try the Ravioli di spinaci e ricotta (spinach & ricotta ravioli). This was served with a butter and sage sauce. Let's just put it this way, if you love butter and salt (and really who doesn't?) you will love this dish.

Ravioli di spinaci e ricotta

About this time in a Press Dinner, things really start to slow down. The group consensus was that even though we knew we shouldn't finish the entire pasta dishes in order to leave room for the mains, we just couldn't help ourselves. So we were all very prepared to take one polite bite of the next dish for tasting purposes and start to wrap things up. But the filet mignon that arrived was so perfectly cooked and complemented by the basil mashed potato and crispy pancetta with braised onion it was served with that we cleaned our plates.

Filetto al balsamico con pancetta e cipolle
Now officially stuffed, I expected to tolerate a couple of bites of the upcoming Baccala, but this dish was also so delightful that while I couldn't finish it, I thoroughly enjoyed most of it. Served with tomatoes, black olives, and capers over crispy polenta, this cod was a perfect blend of tastes and textures.

Baccala' alla livornese con polenta
Thankfully, Chef Matteo Niccoli took it easy on us and served us the perfect dessert to wrap up our meal without making us absolutely burst. His own original creation, the "Cappuccino" is a delightful frozen dessert version of the drink.

Cappuccino Dessert

A truly delightful restaurant, Giano definitely holds its own amongst the great offerings in the East Village!

Giano on Urbanspoon

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