October 21, 2014 – The long-awaited grand opening of Giorgio’s at the 201 Main complex in Salinas is today. At a soft opening over the weekend, diners had a chance to sample the menu, which features clearly marked vegetarian, vegan, 100% organic, grass-fed and free-range options. EMB surveyed the menu, sampled some of the food, and is happy to say that Executive Chef Alessio Giannuzzi’s dedication to great ingredients is paying off.
Starting with the ambiance; owners Gerry, Seamus, and Jesse Kehoe’s four long years of efforts have led to a polished jewel. The interior features backlit green onyx tops on both the bar and the chef’s table, which brings diners up close and personal with the pizza oven and open kitchen. Warm colors and lowered lights bring intimacy to an open space. Decorator Lea Madrid’s fabric and design touches further soften the lines of the former bank lobby. Background music—Italian American fare like Dean Martin—doesn’t intrude.
Service is enthusiastic and knowledgeable. It’s clear that they’ve worked hard to train the wait staff on the menu. They’re still learning, but at least they’ve had a chance to taste the food. The wine list features over a dozen wines by the glass. There’s a nice selection of beers and specialty cocktails featuring fresh ingredients, too.
The menu is a manageable two pages and invites sharing. Not all dishes were available as of this writing, but there’s still plenty to choose from. Appetizers start at $8 for a bruschetta al pomodoro—grilled house-made bread topped with tomatoes, avocado and basil. The grass fed carpaccio of beef tenderloin comes with arugula, capers and lemon olive oil. It’s savory and the arugula cuts the richness of the beef and oil. Salads start at $7 for a mixed green (“Insalata Mista”) plate with tomatoes, nicely dressed and available with free-range chicken for an additional $3.
Three of the six pizzas are vegetarian; they’re all in the $11-$14 range. All of the pastas are house-made, including the seasonal butternut squash ravioli with walnuts, brown butter sage and tomato. The Spaghetti Giorgio we sampled featured plenty of seafood, including perfectly cooked baby octopus, in a savory tomato sauce. It was like cioppino, but without the mess or the bib. Fish and meat offerings include a soup with a fish filet, scallops, calamari, clams, mussels, and prawns in a lobster tomato sauce ($23), and a chianti-braised short rib with mashed potatoes and vegetables ($22).
Desserts include a fluffy and moist tiramisu, which is best accompanied by a nice, strong double espresso. Giorgio’s is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Stop by and welcome them to Oldtown—and bring your patience to the new kids on the corner, okay?
Elaine Hesser grew up in rural Pennsylvania and started cooking at age 6. By age 9, she’d made her first dinner and at midlife, is amazed when high school graduates can’t scramble eggs. After the U.S. Army paid for her B.A., it also moved her to Monterey County, where she served on active duty at Ft. Ord and Ft. Hunter Liggett. She has a wide variety of interests, but is most passionate about faith, writing, and food – and encourages everyone never to stop learning and looking for truth.