Once in a while, a dinner, even though it isn't meant to be a working visit, will turn out to be remarkable enough on to report back on. (Most of the time this means it's good. Occasionally, though.... ) And that's just what happened one late spring evening when, the weather being clement and the group hunger running to pasta, I found myself at a table outside at Gian-Tony's Ristorante.
The newbie in the group learned that Gian-Tony's is old-school Italian, owned by Tony Catarinicchia. Tony is mostly in the kitchen, modestly cooking up what ends up on plates. It was also announced that if osso bucco happened to be on the menu, it would be ordered by someone at the table. The osso bucco is so good an acquaintance of ours begins praying to some saint or another as soon as the dinner destination is determined. Does that work? Well, no, according to friend, because it's so good the holy one eats it all himself.
This is certainly a spot for a long, leisurely meal unless there are folks waiting for tables, as there invariably are on the weekends. The kitchen, as happens at a number of local spots, sends out appetizers and then, as another course, salads, adding to the elapsed time, but a request to have things brought simultaneously is nearly always workable. When it comes to salads, both the house and the Caesar dressings are made here. The Caesar is pretty much a classic, a nice, savory dressing rich with the anchovy's gift of umami, fresh croutons and the traditional romaine lettuce. They changed lettuces on the house salad, using a mixture that contained iceberg, the dressing a little tart, and a little red onion tossed in.
And then there was the eggplant involtini. Thin slices of grilled eggplant are filled with ricotta, rolled up, covered in marinara sauce and quickly reheated. The tablemate who announced, "I don't like eggplant," ended up eating more of it than the rest of us. And it is that good, a little smoky, very creamy, the spice of the slightly chunky sauce pointing up the cheese. A fine, fine dish.
Our guest of honor, who'd been craving veal ordered Veal Fiorentina. The thin slices of veal, were sauteed with artichoke hearts and mushrooms, the dish sauced with white wine and cream. Happily, the artichokes didn't overpower the delicate veal, and there was enough sauce to mop up with a side of pasta.
From the pasta side, seafood ravioli starred. Stuffed with a mixture of shrimp, crab and clam that hadn't been ground to a paste, they were tender but not mushy and wore a light tomato sauce studded with bits of scallop. Plenty of garlic worked well with this dish, which absolutely sparkled. Fettucine alla Gian-Tony's was almost as splendid, the al dente pasta enrobed in a parmesan sauce with plenty of sauteed mushrooms and shrimp. Yes, rich, yes, delicious, and, yes, leftovers made a particularly tasty fritatta for lunch, my favorite use for the other half of my pasta order.
No room, alas, for even a split order of the tiramisu. Next time. Service was a little confused, but part of that can be explained by a bunch of people gabbling and asking questions and getting distracted; that, of course, would have been us. But water glasses were kept filled and there was no "Who gets the ____?"
A fine meal. If you're smart, you'll reserve; it gets mad busy weekends and even sometimes during the week.
5356 Daggett Ave.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Poor