Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Giovanni’s Italian Restaurante
Italian stuffed shrimp appetizer (6) $7.95
Chicken Florentine $12.95
Baked cannelloni $8.95
Cannoli $3.95
Garlic bread $1.95
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Italian Rose

At Giovanni’s, the traditional fare is even more memorable than the flowers.

By BETH HENARY

Giovanni’s Italian Restaurante

2140 Ridgmar Blvd, FW. 817-732-5999.

Tue-Sun 11am-2pm, dinner 5pm-10pm.

uys, if you forgot the bouquet for that special date, don’t worry. Take her to Giovanni’s. With most restaurants you’re fortunate to get a toothpick when you leave — a peppermint if you’re really lucky — but at Giovanni’s Italian Restaurante, you can walk out with one of the red roses that the restaurant doles out to women diners in the evenings.

The roses are a pleasant touch, somewhat surprising at a mom-and-pop eatery caged among typical strip-mall stores in unassuming Ridgmar Square Center, located just north of I-30 on Ridgmar Boulevard. They don’t need roses, however, to set Giovanni’s apart from other local Italian restaurants (and from similarly named Giovanni’s Pasta and Pizza in the Stockyards). The memorable fare does the trick.

It’s easy to collapse into the coziness of Giovanni’s, a 20-table place with better service than your Mama gives you and an intimate but unsophisticated ambiance — fake grapevines, white Christmas lights, lace tablecloths (mine showed the Last Supper), and a rose at each table.

Chef Giovanni makes the whole range of standard Italian fare, from pizzas to chicken cacciatore to shrimp scampi, with more adventuresome specials like chicken and shrimp Madeira thrown in to let the chefs really flex their muscles.

We started off with the Italian stuffed shrimp appetizer, a special. No need for the dipping sauce. These plump, breaded treats metaphorically stood firmly on their own tails: melted Asiago cheese inside, and, on top, a sprinkling of Parmesan. (A controversy arose over whether I’d snagged four or just my half of the six, but a truce was immediately declared when the entrées arrived.)

We’d opted for our Italian favorites. The chicken Florentine, it turns out, has come to be some of the regulars’ raison d’etre. Tender enough to cut with a plastic spoon (if plastic spoons had been available — they weren’t), this dish boasted not one breast but two; one is plenty. Giovanni first dips the chicken in egg batter, then sautés it in a lemon white wine sauce. The result is a rich flavor but not one weighed down by a heavy sauce. Slightly sweet spinach atop the chicken and a side of fettuccine alfredo completed the entrée.

The baked cannelloni, stuffed with ground veal and marinara and topped with melted mozzarella, wasn’t bad, just less thrilling. (“Average” was how my voracious cannelloni-enthusiast companion described it.) The texture of the veal seemed a bit gritty, and the dish as a whole was rather bland. It simply cooked to the same dry fate that baked Italian dishes too often do.

Although I was barely able to finish half the chicken Florentine, we pressed on to dessert. The server made a great case for both the spumoni and cheesecake, but, having gone a particularly long spell without a cannoli, we went in that direction. The cannoli shell was flaky, not hard, leaving the chocolate pieces and filling to ooze out in good homemade fashion. For a sinful touch, a little filling and chocolate sauce were squiggled over the top.

Our server was knowledgeable and solicitous to a fault. When we arrived, she was rushing after a departing couple to give them their rose and belongings they’d left behind. When, upon leaving, we dawdled outside the door while my friend took a cell phone call, the server came out to offer me a second cup of coffee to drink at the sole outdoor table. This at 10 minutes before closing. (Unfortunately, it was a second cup of regular joe, rather than the espresso I’d hoped for earlier. The espresso machine apparently was balking, and I had to settle for the lower-octane pick-me-up.)

That’s OK, though. Giving the espresso machine a second chance on another day will also provide an excuse for trying one of Giovanni’s specials — thus further reducing my tolerance for those pick-your-sauce-and-noodles muddles at the “authentic” chain restaurants. Even without the rose.


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