The Puzzle Of Gianna

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris April 01, 2023 13:15 in Dining Diary

Italian was what my friend wanted the day we met for dinner. She was visiting from Miami and eats in a lot of great restaurants around the world. This stumped me because she was staying in the CBD and didn’t really want to go far. That left one place I really liked, but it was closed (Sofia,) another I really liked except for the scene (Josephine Estelle,) and one I didn’t really care for on any level (Gianna.)

This would be the fourth visit to Gianna, a place that excited us when we heard it was opening. Mary Leigh and I went once and felt it was okay. Tom and I went once and felt the same way. And Tom and I joined friends one festive evening and liked it quite well. I don’t know why the food tasted so much better because of the company, the buzz in the room, or because we did a “feed me” style thing, but we liked it that night.

I hadn’t been back since then, but I didn’t expect much change. Gianna is part of the Donald Link Group, and I love some of his places and feel strongly negative about others. But they all fall into what I worry has become a grossly outsized one, the cool and hip category, which annoys me with few exceptions.

I love Cochon and hate Peche. Go figure. I love the food at Butcher and hate everything else. And I’m extremely enthusiastic about Chemin a la Mer, with no negatives at all. Gianna? Meh.

My friend had been before and was ambivalent. That’s exactly the way we both left.

We started with a pizza, which is that Neopolitan hybrid style. The crust is a little too fluffy for a straight Neopolitan. And we got the current darling topping - fennel sausage.

It also included escarole and mascarpone. Whenever I see pizza on a menu I have to get it, but I immediately wished I had tried some other appetizers instead. I feel that it wouldn’t have made much difference though. We both felt the same about everything. Meh.

Besides the pizza, we got crawfish arancini and another appetizer called Provola, which was too similar to the pizza. This was an odd thing that came in a cast iron skillet with indentures filled with a slice of sausage (likely the fennel) a smidge of marinara, and Provolone cheese melted on top.

I liked the arancini better than my friend. It was surprising to see three smallish balls rolling around on a plate with nothing to secure them. Arancini usually sits in some puddle of something, most often marinara. The risotto was fine, and there was enough cheese melted to create what Tom always liked to call telefono, the melted cheese stretching from whatever, resembling telephone lines, hence the name. Though I couldn’t pick up much crawfish presence.

It didn’t seem proper to leave without getting some entree, though nothing jumped out at us.  We settled on a grilled half chicken with escarole and olive tapenade. The crunchy potato chunks we ordered with it were good. Overall though, more Meh.

I wish I understood the appeal of places like Gianna. A check around the dining room revealed that maybe it’s not an age-appropriated restaurant for us? We are not young, not cool, and not unaware of what tastes good. And now after four or five visits, I don’t need to return to prove those realities yet again.