Friday, February 4, 2011

G'Vanni's Ristorante

Between all my Italian neighbors, it's never an easy choice when deciding who to visit next. I hadn't yet dined at G'Vanni's Ristorante a tiny window front with a bright blue awning situated at 2 Prince Street. The unassuming space is tucked in between Artu and 5 North Square (neighbors I've previously had the pleasure of paying visits.) It's always nice to fill in the gaps so to speak, so when Adam suggested we make use of the Christmas present his boss so generously gifted, I happily obliged with expectations set neither high nor low, just somewhere in the middle.
Being a big fan and supporter of the blog, Adam's boss knew I would also appreciate this gift. (Thanks Joe!) We entered into a tiny narrow space with worn red carpets underfoot, lights emitting a soft rust colored glow overhead. The smells were tantalizing as home cooked Italian meals go, the room filled with comforting aromas of bubbling tomato sauce and warm bread. We were seated at the back table closest to the kitchen, up against a corner wall centered between one of the Tuscan style archways housing rows of wine bottles and Gvanni's signature pasta sauce. The rustic decor was charming, the chairs old and worn-in, the vibe cozy and intimate. I would imagine this is as close as it gets to dining in Italy. The hostess inched apart a four top to create a table for two. Moments later, another couple was seated next to us in such close proximity that we might as well have been on a double date. In all my experiences, three years of eating out in the traditional establishments that this neighborhood is known for, I have never been seated in such an uncomfortable close proximity to another couple. I understand better than anyone, this style of dining comes with the territory. I believe certain restaurants do a great job of maintaining intimacy in small spaces, keeping in mind a couples privacy. This just didn't feel like one of those times.
{We'll get to the food. First note the table spacing.}

Add to that I was completely baffled why (early on a Monday night) the couple was not sat at the empty two top across the aisle, where I noticed some coats stacked on one of the chairs. Despite our awkward seating situation, we were up for making the best of it. It didn't help that the aforementioned table across from us remained empty the duration of our meal. (I tried to reason in my head, it was clearly an advanced reservation. No dice. Apparently it was only reserved for for miscellaneous coats.) I will say, the way about which our waitress flawlessly slipped behind our neighbors backs to take our orders and deliver our food combined with her warm smile and genuine disposition served to minimize the feeling of invasiveness. The photo on my menu gave me a good laugh. (umm??) And our food?! Well here's where it gets good my friends, because the food was excellent; certainly up to par, not to mention the wine. Generous heaping portions were more expensive than we assumed (Urbanspoon quoted $10-$15) however, the average price of an entree clocks in at $25. We each drank a glass of the  House Cabernet ($9), full bodied and smooth with a liberal pour in large glasses.The standard loaf of bread was anything but, it came toasty warm and in unlimited supply. I inhaled half the roll with olive oil and used the other half to sop up the incredibly flavorful garlic butter broth in the Garlicky Steamed P.E.I Mussels ($13).
Then I requested another basket to do the same with the piping hot tomato sauce piled over my G'Vanni's Layered Meat Lasagna ($25). I rarely think to order lasagna so this was a real treat. The portion was huge, boasting layers of prosciutto, spinach and eggplant mingling with red sauce and fresh ricotta cheese. See below my lunch leftovers, which does justice to the dish with better lighting.
I swear this is the leftovers. I swear I ate at dinner! It looks just as large as the portion at the restaurant, but I definitely got through about half my entree while there. The prosciutto in the first layer lent textural contrast with an incredibly salty kick that I embraced before the sauteed spinach greens and thinly sliced eggplant worked their way into the mix. The tender eggplant was delicious, but this is a prosciutto and spinach lovers lasagna for sure. The well portioned (read: lots) of mozzarella melted to form a thick blanket over the pastas surface. Adam's Chicken Parmesan ($20) and Side of Penne ($4) got the job done. He seems to order this traditional dish often and was pleased with the result. It was satisfying, comparable to the others. Living in close proximity for three years now, only to have a gift certificate finally coax me in, G'Vanni's food, service and decor spoke to me. The liberal portions of excellently prepared Italian dishes with well made house marinara sauce would please the most discerning of palates. The cramped dining situation, something I could have taken in graciously had there truly been a full house, didn't stand to impress. Next time, I'd make it a legitimate double date!

G'Vanni's on Urbanspoon
Nothing like keeping it traditional with dessert to-go in the form of a Modern Pastry mini cannoli.
The best! There's something about a crispy sweet shell hand filled with velvety ricotta custard dipped in chocolate chips and sprinkled with powdered sugar that follows up a hearty Italian meal in perfect form.

17 comments:

  1. The food certainly looks good but I'd be a little annoyed about the seating, too. I feel like a lot of N. End restaurants have quirks like this that make it tough to have a real favorite go-to place. What's yours? Any interest in doing a N.End post outlining the pros and cons of the neighborhoods popular establishments?! ;)

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  2. We have a gift certificate there from Bret's gym (I know, random) and your review reminded me that it is time to give it a try!

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  3. I've definitely seen their name before, nice to see your take on it. I love your description of the ambiance.

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  4. Mmm Modern Pastry is one thing I miss from the North End!

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  5. OMG the picture on the menu!? WHAT?! I just choked on my water.

    Were your neighbs feeling equally as awkward? I hope they weren't loud talkers!

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  6. PS i think i want to make that lasanga! totally drooling

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  7. Gaah! You know how I feel about space :)

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  8. The portions at this place are huge! Man I wish I could eat lasagna (or any traditional pasta). The food looks incredible. Those cannolis? Good grief. I'd have been knee deep!!

    Have a great weekend!
    Carrie

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  9. i've always wondered about that place! what a monster piece of lasagna, too :) i might just stick to my cannoli's though...

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  10. I would like ALL of that food now, please! Yum!!

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  11. I am SO impressed by your writing skills. I love reading your reviews... I really feel like I am there with you. And I totally get you with the table so close- that can be so frustrating. And I love your commentary in your head about the empty table- I've totally been in that situation, but its always SO nice when the food overcompensates for the bad things.... AMAZING review and you know my hubby loves Italian food so I will have to get there! PS- I just made lasagna with prosciutto!

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  12. It's a good thing I'm having lasagna for dinner tonight. You have me craving Italian food. And man, I want a cannoli!

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  13. mmm that food looks so delicious. I think the seating would have annoyed me too especially since the place wasnt packed.

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  14. I am totally craving lasagna now! That looks incredible!!

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