I have a certain love for Italian food, but sometimes I can’t decide whether I want a traditional dish like lasagna in hearty marinara sauce, or something more contemporary like butternut squash risotto with gorgonzola fondue. So if you’re indecisive like I am (or a Gemini perhaps?), Giano appeals to both sides of your appetite.
We were greeted by Paolo and Matteo, owners of Giano, and Paolo explained to us the concept of the restaurant/menu: “innovation and tradition are two sides of the same face.” The face of Giano has two sides, one looking to the past and one looking forward to the future (I was looking forward to the future as well – the future of delicious food in my stomach), meaning that Giano references the past with traditional dishes like lasagna and mushroom polenta, but also nods towards the future of Italian cuisine with zucchini crepes and orecchiette with rabbit ragu.
We decided to order two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts. Everything is just better in pairs, I think (just ask Noah), but I digress. This way, we were able to get a taste of something traditional, and something contemporary. For our traditional antipasti, we decided on the Insalata Invernale (warm potato, red beet and string beans salad with brie cheese in extra virgin olive oil dressing), and for our contemporary dish, the Quaglia con Datteri e Gamberi (quail stuffed with dates and shrimp, wrapped in bacon with port wine reduction and mashed potatoes). The salad was delicious; I loved the combination of flavors and textures, and it was surprisingly light despite the fact that potatoes were an essential part of the dish. The quail was definitely on another level. It’s hard to compare a simple salad to tender quail stuffed with shrimp and wrapped in bacon, but I enjoyed both fairly equally.
For our first course, or Primi, we tried the (contemporary) butternut squash risotto with gorgonzola fondue topped with powdered amaretto cookies. Cookie? On my risotto?? I was hesitant at first, but I can eat cookies anytime, anywhere. Bring it on, Giano. And for our Secondi course, we tried the (contemporary) pork tenderloin with caponatina of raisins, eggplant, tomatoes, and pine nuts, drizzled with mustard sauce. I thought the risotto was done well; very creamy, and I loved the gorgonzola fondue swirled throughout – it was a really pretty presentation. The amaretto cookie was just a sprinkling, and it added a nice sweet finish after the tartness of the gorgonzola. The pork was good, not my favorite of the night, but good. I actually liked the caponatina best – the flavors went so well together, it made the pork tenderloin taste better in my opinion. The raisins, eggplant, tomatoes and pine nuts were like a happy little family on a plate. A happy Italian family, if you will.
Lastly, we are onto dessert, aka the culmination of the meal. There wasn’t a traditional/contemporary dessert menu, so from Matteo’s recommendation, we chose creme brulee and tiramisu. The tiramisu was very good and creamy, and I know you’re thinking “it’s Tiramisu, you can’t screw that up” ..but trust me you can. Just go to Little Italy. The creme brulee was good too, I have no complaints about anything with a hard layer of caramelized sugar on top. Obviously, the desserts aren’t as imaginative as the rest of the menu, but hey, they were good and they were big. Can’t complain about that. That said, for consistency reasons, I think they should have a traditional and contemporary dessert menu. I love trying new twists on dessert. There’s only so many tiramisus a girl can eat.
From simple string beans and potatoes to butternut squash risotto with gorgonzola fondue, Giano was a success. The service was great and the space is really nice; modern and sleek in the front, warm and classic in the back with exposed brick and dim lighting. I enjoyed the ambiance and the food, and the concept is clearly executed on the plates.
126 E 7th St (btwn 1st ave and ave A)