Pining for Giorgio
Why is Italian food so hard to find in Philly? To be more clear, why is good Italian food hard to find? A friend recently asked me for Italian restaurant recommendations and I was at a loss. Sure, I love trekking down to the Italian Market, but we can’t always do that for dinner.
I’ve tried my share of Italian BYOs (not all reviewed here) and I haven’t been that impressed. I’d heard rave reviews for Giorgio’s, though, so off Luke and I went on a cool Thursday evening.
The place was cozy in that family-owned BYO manner. A note for you gluten-free eaters out there: Giorgio’s offers gluten-free pasta and pizza! Neither Luke nor I ordered a gluten-free dish, but the options sounded positively delectable.
Garlic = win. Garlic + olive oil = double win. Our meal began with the standard Italian bread-and-olive-oil opener. The bread was unfortunately cold and commonplace, which was a letdown. Honestly, though, when you have plump garlic cloves marinating in golden olive oil, infusing the liquid with flavor and fragrance, anything tastes amazing with that on top. You don’t just want to drizzle. You want to dunk.
Luke and I split the so-named “Calamari” dish ($10), which was, in fact, not just calamari. The sauté of calamari and baby shrimp was served atop a generous bed of arugula, chopped tomato, and cannolini beans. The garlic and lemon used to flavor the dish added the perfect touch and imbued the other ingredients with an intensely savory taste. Both of us were impressed by how tender the portly rings of squid were, which gave way immediately when biting into them. I was also extremely pleased that the arugula wasn’t bitter, as it often is. This promising appetizer made both of us excited for our main dishes.
Luke opted for the Gnocchi ($15), which turned out to be a hefty portion of the pillowy house-made dumplings tossed in a 12-hour braised beef ragout. He liked his dish, finding the classic Italian dumplings creamy and filling. The beef was “tender, but not fork tender”; he still had to use his knife to pull some of the beef apart.
His biggest disappointment? PRE-GRATED CHEESE! Luke was absolutely appalled by this and emphasized how much freshly grated parmesan would elevate the dish to a new level. Despite his chagrin, he still greatly enjoyed his dish. (The fact that Luke had to take home leftovers of his dish was also a testament to Giorgio’s gigantic servings.)
I was torn between the Bucatini and the Linguine upon perusing the menu; however, having never tried Bucatini before, I ventured out on a limb. For $14.50, I got a generous (and I mean generous: my dish could have served three people… indeed, I had plenty of leftovers) proportion of thick spaghetti-like noodles prepared with crispy pancetta, shaved onions, white wine, and spicy marinara. The name “bucatini” is derived from buco, meaning “hole”, while bucato means “pierced.” The noodles reminded me of Sour Punch Straws, which made it slightly hard to slurp as the air that would normally pull the noodles into my mouth instead shot through the noodles’ holes. Still, it was definitely a good experience to try something new. I loved the sauce: tomatoey fresh with a satisfyingly spicy kick. The meat wasn’t particularly noticeable (maybe the bucatini would work with the beef ragout?), but no matter: I was quite pleased with my entrée overall.
This is a solid place and I’d be willing to recommend it to friends. Our only wish? GIORGIO, PLEASE SERVE WARM BREAD!!! (Oh, and grate your parmesan cheese fresh too.)