Over five years have passed since I last penned a formal review of Giumarello's
(4/9/01). Not that I've been a stranger. Whenever my wife and I are in the
area, we always make it a point of stopping by to enjoy a preprandial libation
before moving on to another establishment for reviewing purposes. Indeed, the
bar/lounge -- replete with comfy banquettes, beautiful ornate wooden bar, and
atmospheric lighting -- is a most hospitable space, and made even more so by
Jen & Michelle, the establishment's attractive and friendly bartenders.
So settle in and choose from over forty fabulous martinis or, perhaps,
select one of the outstanding vintages available by the glass. I highly
recommend the crisp, refreshing Bollini "Reserve" Pinot Grigio
($10.00) or Hess Collection Chardonnay ($11.00). Among the reds, I am extremely
partial to the David Bruce "Central Coast" Pinot Noir ($12.00),
Franciscan "Oakville Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.00), or Antinori
Villa Red "Riserva" Chianti ($9.50).
When you're ready to adjourn to table, bear in mind that Giumarello's
offers a number of well-appointed venues, including La Piazza for casual
outdoor munching in warmer weather. But as the two main dining rooms are
somewhat nondescript, I much prefer the more intimate area located directly
behind what was the nonsmoking section of the bar.
Chefs/proprietors Sam, Jr., and Gian Giumarello utilize only impeccably
fresh ingredients of the highest quality and major in prodigious portions of
robust Northern Italian cuisine (infinitely more prodigious and robust, in my
memory, than when I posted my initial review). Consider yourself forewarned: If
your peristaltic capacity is limited, be prepared to join the ranks of the
A house salad is included with your entrée; however, if you entertain a
particular fondness for greenery, you would do well to upgrade to one of the
other possibilities, which are infinitely superior to the generic version and
permit you to deduct $2.00 from the original sticker price. My recommendations
include: the "Gorgonzola," mixed greens embellished with morsels of
earthy Gorgonzola cheese, cranberries, slices of fresh pear, and walnuts tossed
with a light balsamic vinaigrette ($7.99); "Arugula," partnered with
Belgian endive, caramelized walnuts, goat cheese, and white raisins in a sherry
walnut vinaigrette ($8.99); and an excellent version of the "Wedge,"
a freshly cut cusp of iceberg sprinkled with crisp chopped bacon, red onion,
crunchy semolina croutons, and consummated with a marvelously creamy Maytag
bleu cheese dressing ($8.99).
But don't let these scintillating salads dissuade you from giving serious
consideration to the antipasti, which all have a great deal to offer. A
perennial favorite here is the eggplant Florentine ($6.99). Thin slices of
eggplant are stuffed with fresh spinach and rich ricotta cheese and then baked
with a topping of marinara and mozzarella. Hardly for the calorie conscious but
The presentation of Prince Edward Island mussels ($7.99; with clams, $10.99;
with jumbo lump crabmeat, an additional $5.00) is also an exceptional starter.
Whether they swim to table in a spicy red or pungently flavorful white garlic
sauce, you will find them pristinely plump and at the absolute peak of good
health. Also not to be overlooked is the calamari fritti companioned by a zippy
marinara sauce ($6.99). The crisp flash-fried rings are so irresistibly tender
they simply melt in the mouth. By far, the best representative of this
particular genre that I've sampled in quite some time.
When it comes to entrées, assertive sauces play a significant role. Indeed,
at times the sauces are so rich and applied with such a heavy hand that they
succeed in smothering rather than caressing the objects of their affection...
The jumbo lump crab cakes (market price; the night ordered, $27.99) are
composed almost entirely of sweet, succulent crabmeat and are beautifully
broiled rather than fried... But they are literally drowned in an overly creamy
roasted red pepper sauce; and other possibilities -- aurora sauce, Dijon cream
sauce, and pink sherry shrimp sauce -- are equally unctuous. The special
horseradish-encrusted filet mignon ($31.99) suffers a similar fate. The beef is
superlative of quality and velvety of texture... unfortunately, its natural
flavor fights a losing battle against a formidable flood of port wine demi-glace.
And sauces adorning the fresh fish selections, it should be noted, are
commensurately weighty and liberally applied.
In all fairness, I realize that there are undoubtedly many dinners who
thoroughly enjoy Giumarello's saucy excesses and Herculean portions. If
you are blessed with a hearty appetite, by all means, enjoy. On the other hand,
should you prefer a bit more subtlety, my advice is to order these heavier accoutrements
on the side or specify that your entrées be prepared au naturel or, at
the very least, with less intrusive embellishments.
In point of fact there are a number of dishes that clearly demonstrate that
the kitchen is also capable of a good deal of finesse... The "Veal
Isabella" ($22.95), for example, features lightly battered, perfectly
sautéed veal medallions with a glaze of mozzarella cheese and delicate white
wine sauce endowed with crunchy jumbo shrimp and hearts of artichoke. The
Romano-encrusted chicken ($17.95) is another standout. The boneless breast is
pounded thin, yet still manages to maintain a moist and tender countenance. It
is then topped with broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers, sharp provolone cheese,
and served with a mound of fabulously addictive olive oil mashed potatoes.
Desserts ($6.95), including a luscious cream cheese brownie with vanilla
gelato and chocolate bread pudding with walnuts, are always worth saving room for,
as are the splendid array of side dishes ($5.99). Particularly recommended are
the medley of sautéed mushrooms -- portobello, crimini, and shiitake -- wilted
baby spinach, and sautéed broccoli rabe.
I have always enjoyed dining at Giumarello's. I do wish that a number
of the entrées were not as heavily sauced and were more sophisticated in
presentation; but that, I freely admit, is a personal preference. There is no
doubt that this popular establishment has perfectly zeroed in on its target
audience and continues to serve it well.
Cuisine: Northern Italian
Hours: Lunch: Tues - Fri, 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Tues - Thurs,
5:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; CLOSED SUNDAY AND
Credit Cards: All major
Attire: Smart casual
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Web Site: http://www.giumarellos.com