DE­LIGHT­FULLY FRESH PASTA AT GIUSEPPE’S

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - ALANA HUD­SON Alana Hud­son has cooked at restau­rants in­clud­ing Vong, Le Bernardin, and Avalon.

When my din­ing com­pan­ion called to make a reser­va­tion at Giuseppe’s on King Street East, she said the per­son at the other end sounded le­git Ital­ian.

I won­dered if it had been Giuseppe him­self.

How­ever, when we walked into the three-storey red brick Vic­to­rian house, we found out that the voice be­longs to Giuseppe’s brother, Ger­ardo, who looked af­ter us dur­ing our visit.

A porch out front had a cou­ple of ta­bles cov­ered in white linens, but it seemed like it would be qui­eter in­side. And it was. In fact, the din­ing room was empty and as Ger­ardo led us to our ta­ble, I be­gan to rel­ish the idea of hav­ing the whole place to our­selves.

The din­ing room is done in lighter shades: pale laven­der walls, white table­cloths, and yel­low cur­tains re­mained open to let in the bright early evening sun. The bars on the back win­dows just re­minded you that you were not in ru­ral Italy but, in fact, down­town Hamilton. How­ever, they had lit­tle im­pact on the open feel of the room.

When I turned to the first page of the menu, I saw a land­scape de­pict­ing evening in Venice, done with shades of pur­ple. The gon­do­las were docked, and the moon was up. It looked like just the time to en­joy some wine.

There was none by the glass listed on the menu, so I asked and was of­fered the house red or the house white. Red it was.

They also stock main­stream beers (Coors, Bud, Keith’s) and clas­sic cock­tails (Cae­sar, Black Rus­sian, Man­hat­tan), along with a list of liqueurs (grappa and Grand Marnier, for ex­am­ple).

The wine was a pleas­ant sur­prise, tast­ing like a mer­lot that might have been de­scribed as “vel­vety, with medium acid­ity.” Pleas­ant. My com­pan­ion or­dered the “Per­fect Mar­tini,” which came in a clas­sic mar­tini glass, a shade darker than a dirty mar­tini. Gin, with both sweet and dry ver­mouth, com­bined with the onion (in­side of the olive) to cre­ate a gen­tly stim­u­lat­ing sip.

Af­ter a brief pause, our ap­pe­tiz­ers ar­rived. A large, whi­ter­immed bowl held a straight­for­ward strac­ciatella. The broth wasn’t rich with a meaty flavour, but tasted equally of chicken and veg­eta­bles. Next to the clouds of egg were two ravi­oli filled with herby ri­cotta. I would have pre­ferred the eggs stirred in a lit­tle more, but they were del­i­cate and soft.

And af­ter tast­ing this fresh, ten­der pasta, I was pleased that I had or­dered more of it for my en­trée.

House-made bread, lightly coated with melted cheese and a thin layer of to­mato sauce, came with the soup. The bread was, like the pasta, soft with­out be­ing light, and had a thin, crisp crust. Hard to re­sist eat­ing all of it.

The Ital­ian salad was right in line with the rest of the food — sim­ple in­gre­di­ents, skil­fully pre­pared. Roasted pep­pers, and tartly mar­i­nated car­rots, cau­li­flower, cel­ery and ar­ti­chokes strewn over chunks of ice­berg let­tuce, with a leaf of pars­ley and a cou­ple of ripe to­mato quar­ters gar­nish­ing the plate. The vinai­grette was served in a large metal gravy boat with a la­dle. It was rich with olive oil, and had just a touch of acid­ity from the bal­samic vine­gar: a nice, mel­low coat­ing for the peppy veg­gies.

The mu­sic mixed well with the mar­tini: croon­ers, some big band, some R&B. Think part Harry Con­nick Jr. and part Otis Red­ding. A re­lax­ing vibe. The ser­vice is not rushed; it’s not even verg­ing on quick. This is a place where one should go and re­lax, with no fur­ther des­ti­na­tion in mind.

Even­tu­ally, the pasta came out with my com­pan­ion’s en­trée: salmon with soft po­lenta and olives. I had wanted to try a sim­ple dish to fully ap­pre­ci­ate the pasta (all but the spaghetti are house made) and so or­dered the spaghetti with lamb and beef meat­balls but asked about the tagli­atelle. Our server seemed to in­tuit that and of­fered right away to switch the pas­tas.

Large meat­balls sat atop a bed of flow­ing tagli­atelle cov­ered with to­mato sauce. The long, flat rib­bons of pasta were ten­der, just like the ravi­oli, and with the slight zing in the to­mato sauce, I could eas­ily have cleaned the plate. The meat­balls, a touch lean yet sub­stan­tial, were out­shone by the pasta.

The salmon was slightly over­cooked, we felt, but the po­lenta un­der­neath was fan­tas­tic. Melt-in­y­our-mouth, soft and rich.

With each dish, I ap­pre­ci­ated more and more how the broth­ers (Giuseppe and Ger­ardo do the cook­ing dur­ing the day) han­dle their starches. Ca­pers and olives sparked up the plate as did other South­ern Ital­ian flavours — sul­tana raisins, and lemon rind — and the light to­mato sauce sur­round­ing the po­lenta brought it all to­gether quite nicely.

We had to try the pizza, too, and I was glad we did. The bread and pasta fore­shad­owed the thin, del­i­cate dough of the pizza, en­cased in a crust that had just the right bite and dressed with slightly sweet sauce. It was a bar­gain, too; a medium was just $13.90.

Our plates were cleared and we asked about dessert. There was no tiramisu, but Ger­ardo men­tioned blue­berry pie and a choco­late cake, both house-made, so we or­dered one of each. I had time at that point to wan­der around the din­ing room, which has a hall­way lead­ing to the bar area where dimmed light­ing made for a more in­ti­mate at­mos­phere; two TVs were on in the back­ground.

The choco­late cake was among the moister cakes I’ve ever had. A lit­tle dense, and dressed up with choco­late sauce and vanilla ice cream.

The blue­berry pie, how­ever, con­fused me as it, too, was served with choco­late sauce and vanilla ice cream. It had a short­bread-like crust and was sprin­kled with ic­ing sugar and co­coa pow­der but some­how lacked flavour.

We had to get go­ing, and I asked for the bill as we fin­ished the desserts.

I couldn’t wait to eat the left­over pasta.

ALANA HUD­SON, SPE­CIAL TO THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

The tagli­atelle was the star of the plate, ac­com­pa­nied by lamb and beef meat­balls.

GARY YOKOYAMA, THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

The din­ing room is done in lighter shades; yel­low cur­tains were open to let in bright early evening sun.

ALANA HUD­SON, SPE­CIAL TO THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

Strac­ciatella came with soft puffs of egg and two del­i­cate, de­li­cious ri­cotta ravi­oli.

ALANA HUD­SON, SPE­CIAL TO THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

Mar­i­nated veg­eta­bles added zest to the sim­ply pre­pared In­salata Ital­iana.

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