I recently attended a dinner at Giano and was able to try a number of their classic dishes. Located in Alphabet City (or the East Village, however you want to refer to it), Giano boasts an indoor seating area as well as a seasonal garden, with an additional capacity of 20 seats. It’s really quite a nice outdoor space which makes you think, even for just a little while, that you are not in downtown Manhattan.
Before getting to the Roman Italian dishes we sampled, it’s important to note that the restaurant does offer a gluten free option for most pasta dishes. You may not enjoy the same variety of pasta, but you can taste each of the sauces as they were meant to be served. Giano offers happy hour Tuesday through Thursday and on Sunday (they are closed Monday) and it only open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Happy not only offers some discounted alcohol, but also a 2-course prix fixe dinner for $21.95.
To start off the meal, we tasted a trio of appetizers including polenta with mixed mushrooms, grass fed beef meatballs and a creamy tuna crocchette. The polenta is not actually a creamy version, instead you get several fried polenta pieces and delicious mushrooms cooked in just enough butter. The meatball is in a classic tomato sauce and the tuna crocchette is filled with tuna, ricotta and served with arugula and a balsamic reduction.
The first pasta course we were served was bigoli (a think housemade Medieval pasta), like a spaghetti, with a braised lamb ragu and toasted walnut powder. While a ragu like this can be very heavy, this was a little lighter, but it surely didn’t lose any of its great flavors. I’m a sucker for lamb ragu, and this one was spot on.
Next, Rigatoni with ricotta salata, fava beans and pancetta. This was my least favorite pasta of the three we tried. I found it to be salty and really didn’t have enough of a sauce.
Finally, the gnocchi. Four cheese gnocchi. These were outrageously good. So soft, like little clouds of perfection. The cheeses made it rich, so rich that I think this dish jumped tax brackets to the top 1%. Due to all the dishes we tried, I tried to pace myself…until the gnocchi, which I completely demolished.
The first of the two secondi plates was a pan seared cod with black olives, capers and crispy polenta. I found this dish to be overly salty due to all of the salty and brined elements. I also wish there was something other than crispy polenta. The fish however was cooked perfectly.
The final savory course was a filet mignon with pancetta and basil mashed potatoes. They weren’t just mixed with basil, they looked green and they were superb. The filet isn’t something I would normally order, but went well with the mashed potatoes.
For dessert I only had room for a coffee gelato with layered wafer cookies and a ricotta coffee foam. It was like a cappuccino met a dessert and created this dish. It was rich, but isn’t it supposed to be? I would like try the creame brulee next time.
Overall, while there were a few dishes that didn’t hit it out the park for me, many of them were reasons to come back. Those gnocchi will haunt my dreams (in a good way) as will the lamb ragu and cappuccino dessert. Check this place out and sit in the garden before the season changes.