Andreae Prozesky heads home to Giovanni Cabot’s for their second anniversary.
When I tell Meghan O’Dea of Giovanni Cabot’s that the story I’ve been sent to write on her restaurant is actually going to be a Food Nerd column, she’s a little concerned.
“But Dreae,” she says, “what the hell are you going to say? Your columns are about Ziploc omelettes and baking soda.”
Indeed. I am no restaurant reviewer. It’s just that Giovanni Cabot’s second birthday is coming up on the 15th and I like those guys. I wanted to give them a little congratulatory nod. Is that so wrong? Am I breaking some kind of food writing code by saying that? Did I ever have any journalistic integrity anyway?
Truth be told, I’m not even really a restaurant person. In this fine town, with its booming service industry and its restaurants to match any mainland eatery for innovation, ingredients, and snazziness, nine times out of ten I would rather just stay home. There are maybe four restaurants I could be bothered to visit in all of St. John’s. Seven if you count fish’n’chips joints. Eight if you count pubs.
I won’t bother name-dropping: you know who you are.
My problem is that I just like food too much to sit idly by while it becomes a tool of one-up-man-ship, as so often happens in the restaurant world. Instead of reveling in food’s nourishing and uplifting qualities, restaurant chefs engage in odd rituals of what can only be thought of as culinary endowment-measuring. You know, the Very Wee Serving on a Very Big Plate. Or the Towering Vertical Salad of Endives and Parmesan Tuiles.
I’m all for a nice presentation, but when flavour gets bumped for architecture, you lose me. Keep it simple. Stop putting pine nuts where they don’t belong just so you can be proud of yourself for using pine nuts. And, for the love of all that’s decent, don’t come at me brandishing a two-foot pepper mill and offering to grind my pepper as though I were a child.
When I go to a restaurant, I want to leave with the impression that what I just ate is something I would have been served if I stopped by the chef’s house for dinner. Which is what it’s like at Giovanni’s. Now, I’m pretty sure that Meghan and Giovanni Cabot’s co-owner Jason Burgess don’t have a 600F industrial pizza oven in their home kitchen, but their menu reflects the kind of care that would go into planning a big family dinner. This pizza has bacon and Italian sausage for the meat lover, and that one has feta and grilled chicken for the weight-watcher. There’s pesto with soy parm for the vegan cousin and artichoke dip for the kitschy older sister.
Regarding the meat-free offerings, Jason says that “we want to be known as a vegetarian option. We’re not a vegetarian restaurant, but we are happy to accommodate different food needs.” And if nothing on the menu speaks to you, Meg and Jay want you to let them know. Jason’s particularly emphatic about this.
“Just tell me what you want, and I’ll make it for you.”
And he’ll do it too.
Nothing in their kitchen is pre-fab. The bread is homemade. The veggie burgers are homemade. And the desserts… oh, the desserts.
Since Giovanni’s opened, Meghan hasn’t made the same cheesecake twice, except on request. I’m a sucker for the gingerbread, but wouldn’t say no to a great hunk of dark, dense, vegan-friendly non-dairy fudge cake. Meghan makes it a priority to have at least two vegan options on the dessert menu at any given time.
“We wanted to offer it so that the whole family could go out together, with Grandma, and kids, and everybody could find something to eat,” she says.
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