Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino in Houston
Giacamo’s neighborhood Italian cafe… better late than never.
Driving past this River Oaks area eatery always peaked my interest, but never enough to make the turn. When a friend suggested Giacomo’s as a spot to meet for lunch, I jumped at the suggestion, as my curiosity could finally be put to rest.
I am not extremely fond of restaurants sitting right on a busy street like Westheimer, but upon entering the front door, I wasn’t aware of that. On the patio, while the cars could be heard, the trees and shrubs hid them from view and their presence wasn’t overpowering.
Now that I have been there, I feel that I have wasted time and money by passing it up for so long. The first delight was that the quiet little neighborhood Italian cafe is owned and run by Lynette Hawkins of long-extinct La Mora fame. I remember her for the Portabello mushroom starters that drew me in to her Montrose restaurant in those days. Now, alas, not on the menu! But… she does wonders with creminis!
So, as James was virtually a regular at Giacamo’s, I asked him to order for me and in writing this review, I am a little hampered by the fact that we discussed each facet of the meal… and we agreed on our assessments of them. In fact, I read his blog Mise en Place and it was hard to use other words to describe the lunch!
Our first appetizer was Mozzarella in Corrozza, which was basically a mozzarella cheese sandwich with a truly heavenly and lemony caper sauce that literally made the dish. In fact, in my opinion, it saved the dish. I (we) found that the fact that the mozzarella wasn’t melted was a little off-putting, but not a deal breaker. This little problem was (I’m sure) a fluke that, in the future, can be avoided when the order is placed. BTW, there will be a future order of it on my next visit. Capers, in my opinion, can make a durian edible.
My pasta course was Tortelli di Bietola (Swiss chard, ricotta and goat cheese-filled ravioli, generously bathed in a sage butter sauce). Chard is rapidly becoming the go-to dark green veggie in the culinary world… surpassing the very common spinach of the Florentine dishes that populate Italian menus today. Thanks, James. The ravioli were thin and tender enough to tongue into submission and the simple sauce with fresh sage leaves was perfect. The dish was obviously spirited to our table immediately upon plating it, as the dreaded frisbie effect was far from setting in and the nicely sized pillows separated and slid effortlessly onto my fork. It is a truly well-done dish and probably should be a must-order on a first visit.
I slipped a few bites of James’ Gnocchi di Funghi on my plate. “Gentle giant” came to mind. The cream and gorgonzola sauce was big, bold, yet soft… and the muskiness of the creminis softened the flavor of the cheese. For a guy who NEVER orders gnocchi, I saw the error of my ways. However, as it always is with gnocchi, it is all about the sauce and this sauce is all about dressing up potatoes (beautifully) to go out.
Again, I wish I had visited Giacamo’s earlier, but as they say… better late than never.