Checking in with Giano, one of SSPNY's go-to Italian spots in the East Village! 

Checking in with Giano, one of SSPNY's go-to Italian spots in the East Village!

SSPNY visited Giano restaurant in the East Village.

Checking in with Giano, one of SSPNY's go-to Italian spots in the East Village

 

It's always exciting to check out a hot new restaurant--the infectious enthusiasm of the crowd, the untried menu of potential delights--especially when it lives up to the hype. But really, it's places such as Giano that make a neighborhood. Opened in early 2008 by a duo from Milan, Paolo Rossi and Chef Matteo Niccoli (both of whom also, by the way, designed the space), Giano has been steadily keeping locals satisfied with its amiable atmosphere, reasonable prices, and an appealing menu of contemporary Italian cuisine. 
SSPNY thought the meatballs in tomato sauce at Giano were fantastic!
I was invited to a complimentary, multiple-course dinner at Giano on a raw and freezing night a couple of weeks ago, and the whole experience--the friendly service, the created-with-love food--reminded me how good this place can be. To start things off I was presented with a trio of samples from the appetizer section of the Giano menu, two of which I would definitely order again: the big, dense meatball (the texture was perfect) served in a bright, lively tomato sauce; and the thick stalk of asparagus (again, perfectly cooked) wrapped in melted fontina cheese, studded with chewy speck, drizzled with an intense balsamic vinegar reduction. 
Giano's pasta lived up to the hype. SSPNY enjoyed the gnocchi in four-cheese sauce!
The heart of any local Italian spot is the pasta--if the kitchen falls down here, there's really no point in returning--and I'm happy to say that all three of the dishes I tried were first rate. The soft (not gummy) gnocchi in a thick four-cheese sauce; the earthy, funky chestnut tagliatelle in a sausage ragout, studded with mushrooms and walnuts; the just-on-the-right-side-of-sweet risotto, made with butternut squash, gorgonzola and (this next part was the secret, surprisingly successful ingredient), finely crumbled amaretti cookies.
SSPNY tried the salmon filet, which was full of textures and flavors. Nice job, Giano!
At this point in any "real-life" Italian restaurant meal I'm usually done, but on this night the food kept on coming. The balsamic-glazed beef filet was terrific, accompanied with mashed potatoes, and pancetta, but the real winner from Secondi territory was the wonderful salmon filet, served unashamedly rare on a pile of peas and fava beans. This was lovely, a well-composed dish of complementary textures and flavors. Nice job, Giano. 

Giano is located on East 7th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30 to 11:00, or 11:30 on Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday. More info and the complete Giano menu can found here.  

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