For my inaugural blog post (yay!), I wanted to highlight one of my favorite restaurants for comfort food. The past couple of days (weeks, months…) at work have been long, occasionally grueling. Though I wish I could say it was exercise, my antidote to stress is usually food. But since I don’t have time right now to make my own comfort food, I seek it out in restaurants.
The food at Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino has all of the markings of what people call “comfort food.” It’s warm, simple, made from scratch, and consistently great tasting, just like your Mom’s grilled cheese would be. I’ve never met any of the chefs at Giacomo’s, but I can’t imagine anyone making this food besides a little Italian grandmother, with floured hands and apron.
The atmosphere of Giacomo’s is similarly comfortable – No white table clothes, helpful servers, and brightly colored walls. Oh, and I can’t go without mentioning the very comfortably priced wine list.
One of the homiest plates that I’ve tried is the Porchetta e fagioli, or roasted Burkshire pork butt, which is served atop canellini beans. The roast is so fragrant, and so tender. Definitely one of the best roasts I’ve had that was not made by my mother.
Another star secondi (what we would call a main dish) is the Gamberi al diavolo, or Shrimp with Harissa. Harissa is a North African paste of ground red pepper, spices, garlic, and olive oil. It can be difficult to find in the US, but is pretty common in Europe.
As one would expect, the imaginary little Italian grandmother behind Giacomo’s kitchen also makes all of the pastas from scratch. I’ve tried many of the pastas, and my favorite is the Tortelli di bietola. I wasn’t able to get a fantastic picture, but you can see it beside the brussel sprouts in a photo below. The tortelli is stuffed with ricotta and served with a sage butter sauce. Such simple ingredients, but so memorable. The Gnocchi di funghi (with mushrooms) is another of my preferred pastas. Sadly, the gnocchi is not pictured. I didn’t order it this time, because I couldn’t justify ordering two pastas knowing that was simply not going to be able to pass up dessert. But the gnocchi’s pillowy, creamy goodness was sorely missed.
Wanting to go with something I had never tried before, I ordered the Linguine giacomo, figuring the namesake pasta must be pretty good. Though a very attractive dish, it failed to generate the enthusiasm I usually have for their pasta. The simple ingredients in the dishes at Giacomo’s typically amplify the flavor of each other – it would never occur to you to add anything besides sage and butter to the tortelli. But linguine giacomo seemed to be lacking something.
Now let’s go back for a minute to the brussel sprouts that I mentioned. Giacomo’s does vegetables exceptionally well. The dishes I keep coming back to are the ratatouille (one of the chichetti caldi), the house salad, and of course the brussel sprouts cooked with pancetta.
Again, the ingredients and construction of these dishes is simple. The house salad (della casa) is nothing more than mixed greens, tomatoes, fennel, olives, and an excellent vinaigrette.
If you’re not stuffed after the vegetables, pasta, and secondi, Grandma has also prepared some dessert. And even if you are stuffed, just try a little bit. Afterall, Grandma would never let you leave without trying one of her dolci. Grandma would also never have to do much persuading with me. People who dine with me know I can wax poetic through an entire five course meal about a dessert I am awaiting.
My favorite dessert at Giacomo’s is the lemon tarte. Not what I think of when I imagine a traditional Italian dessert, but delicious nonetheless. The crust is great, and the filling is the perfect blend of creamy and citrusy (though I tend to like my tartes more citrusy). I was so excited to dig in that one of my dinner mates had to remind to get a photo before I ate it all.
When I return next, I’ll want to try the panna cotta, and maybe see if I can steal a glimpse of that little Italian grandma.
Most favorite dish: Tortelli di bietola (ravioli in sage-butter sauce)
Perfect for: going to town on some made-from-scratch carbs after a long day.