Giovanni’s – Italian Classic

One Italian restaurant I’ve been to more often than many others is Giovanni’s. Partly out of convenience (very close to where I work), and partly because the food there just works. It’s not like your mind is blown away, but they don’t do bad at all and – most importantly – it sure is hearty stuff!

I’ve been to Giovanni’s for a casual dinner, a birthday dinner (Saksham if you’re reading this here’s a pointless shoutout to you), and a work lunch. A result of this is that I’ve sampled a fair bit of the menu, though as usual I’ll only be reviewing the stuff I’ve taken half-decent pictures of.

Restaurant: Giovanni’s Restaurant & Pizzeria
Number of Visits: 3
Date Last Visited: 3/09/2012
Address: 225 George Street, Sydney NSW (but they’ve other locations too)
Specialisation: N/A – well, Italian
Good for: work lunches, semi-casual dinners, formal dinners/occasions if you reserve the long tables
Not good for: carb-haters, as is the case with Italian in general
Go-to dish: any of their pizzas, but for me specifically the Leo

There is actually an alfresco element to this ristorante, as can be seen in a picture…which I’ve yet to post up. Whoops, update coming shortly. In any case, You get a view of a portion of George Street which isn’t all that impressive, but at least it’s panoramic.


View of outside

The interior is also worth mentioning – it’s quite a large ristorante with two levels to it. It’s unique in that it’s got that pretty cool semicircle shape which makes for some interesting viewpoints depending on where you sit. Just thought you’d like to know.


The interior

You’ll be pretty familiar with the dishes I’m looking at since they essentially make up the ‘standard fare’ of Italian cuisine. We’re talking things like spagbol, lasagne etc. Yes, there is far more to Italian than just that (soon to be covered in my Crave series!) but there is a reason why these are staples of the cuisine. Simple to make, hard to perfect, but tastes great all the same. And oh, oh so carb-rich. Mmmm. Let’s get going.


6 juicy fresh prawns, sliced pepperoni, quality sliced ham, loads of mushrooms, onions, fresh olives and capsicum

Mmm, the pizza. Giovanni’s claims that this is their house specialty. Who am I to argue? Especially as the pizza tastes so good?

Franchise pizzerias such as Pizza Hut/Dominoes make decent enough pizzas for what they’re marketed as. Pizzas from proper Italian restaurants almost always taste better. Partly because of that whole “woodfired” taste which gives the base/crust that heavenly texture that’s both soft and crispy (depending on where you’re chewing), but also the fact that they don’t hold back on the toppings. Last but not least, the ingredients used are definitely in a different league. You would expect that after all, when the pizzas are around 300% the price of a regular large Pizza Hut pizza. You pay for quality, and for the most part you get it.

The prawns are indeed juicy fresh, though one may question the inclusion of them for such a pizza. It doesn’t fully complement the other toppings, but I’m not going to fault them – I just like prawns in general. I happily picked them off the pizza to eat individually 😛

Other toppings were great – lots of meats, each with a distinct flavour burst as you bite into them, not too many mushrooms (not a big fan), and a good herb seasoning.

Having tried other kinds of pizza from Giovanni’s as well I can say that in general the choices available easily rivals the pizzas at Pancakes on the Rocks.


Spaghetti Bolognese

Spagbol is one of those dishes that’s easy to get the hang of, hard to master. Perhaps that’s because there’s a limit on how good such a simple dish can get. Maybe. Or maybe it just takes some true skill.

Well, whichever the case, the spagbol at Giovanni’s doesn’t stand out as such from other great ristorantes. But having said that, it isn’t below par with any of them either. There’s not much to say here – the mince and sauce are well proportioned and tender without being too runny. The pasta is boiled to the correct level of softness (for the most part) and the parmesan cheese is left up to the choice of the diner – the way it really should be.

It’s a spagbol you can’t go wrong with – great for a quick carb fix.

It is a bit expensive though, at $20. You definitely can make the same stuff for 4x less money which feeds 4x more people. The price you pay for eating this at a ristorante.


Chicken Al Limone
pan fried chicken breast cooked in a lemon & white wine sauce

On my latest visit this was my choice of main as I had a craving for chicken, yet not for the carb-types (schnitzel, deep-fried etc). This was the healthiest option I could find, and it seemed to deliver on that front. Well, except the fact that the skin was still left on. Darn, oh well.

I have mixed feelings about this one. Putting the veggies and potatoes aside (which had decent texture as appropriate to each veggie, but under-flavoured), the chicken was lacking that ‘punch’ of flavour that I kept expecting, but never received. I never squeezed the lemon on as the Al Limone combo (lemon + olive oil) was enough sour for me. I get the feeling this washed out whatever other seasoning was meant to be going with the chicken. A real shame.

Its texture was also a bit odd – it felt tender at times, but quite tough at others. It’s not a standout pan-fry that’s for sure. The texture should be easier to fix than the flavours though – Giovanni’s need to think that through a bit.


Meat Lasagne
layers of homemade pasta and 100% beef mince topped
w. bolognese sauce and served w. salad

So okay, the chicken isn’t that great – but oh my what a beautiful lasagne. Just look at it. So rich, so colourful, so flavoursome.

Lasagne is a staple like spagbol but it’s arguably much harder to produce a great specimen. I reckon Giovanni’s has got that nailed down here. I struggle to think of a better lasagne I’ve had.

They didn’t hold back on the beef as you can see – there’s a lot of protein in there ready to be gobbled up. The generous use of bolognese sauce is a clever one (albeit not really necessary).

Cut it open, and you’ll be greeted by aromas above and beyond what you were getting a whiff of initially (which is just awesome btw). It cuts nicely open,  has no tough parts unlike many commercial and mass-produced lasagnes and pretty much falls apart in the mouth. And of course, full of flavour complemented by the excellent cheese used.

Mmm mmmm.


Affogato w/vanilla gelato

I decided to give myself a bit of a sugar hit by ordering an affogato (which is literally coffee with a dessert such as ice cream dolloped in it). I don’t usually drink coffee apart from at brunch, but this is an exception. The interplay between the inherent bitterness of coffee and the creamy sweetness of vanilla gelato is a guilty pleasure that I rarely afford myself.

If you’re gonna have an iced coffee, might as well chuck a scoop of ice cream in there. Forget guilt, you can work it off later. If not, have fun with your undressed salads 😛

Giovanni’s is a good haunt, though since it’s a bit pricey (but you’re probably paying a bit for that view) I wouldn’t recommend frequent lunches here. By all means, celebrate a birthday here though!

I give Giovanni’s Restaurant & Pizzeria a grand total of seven Caesars out of ten – 7/10

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