I made my first trip down to Giorgione recently. I like the room and the ambience a lot. It's casual and relaxed, yet classy. I liked the effect of the polished chrome tabletops and painted brick walls with wine bottles lining the shelves. As I think someone said, rustic meets chic. Somewhat severe (but still enjoyable) opera music on the sound system gave way to pleasant, vaguely hip rock as the night went on. The best part was the wonderful fireplacey aroma emanating from the pizza oven. This would be a great room to duck into on a cold, blustery night.
The staff did a great job dealing as best they could with a very large and boisterous group that drove in from over the river for a big night out... they seated them up two steps in the back part of the dining room, where the booming laughter, blinding flashbulbs, and little kids racing around shrieking at the top of their lungs wouldn't bother the rest of us quite so much. They even cranked up the music to drown out the ear-splitting racket. Extra points to the staff for deft handling of an inevitable weekend disaster.
The wine list is respectably comprehensive for a neighborhood place, with plenty of well-selected, modestly price selections, including good representation of many regions of Italy.
The waiter was amiable and competent without being particularly well-informed or attentive. The service certainly wasn't up to the standards you'd expect at a great restaurant, but for the neighborhood joint this is, it was well within 15%-gratuity guidelines.
Now for the disappointing part: the food. I had the risotto sotto bosco that chowhounds have been raving about. It was undercooked for my taste, a little crunchy even, and the only flavor it had to offer was that of butter. A nice, smooth, buttery flavor, I'll admit, but the other elements of the sauce were completely MIA. Another appetizer, artichoke prepared with mint and I think garlic and olive oil, was decent, but again without much flavor. You could pick something like this up from the salad bar at the deli downstairs. We ordered two fish entrees, which, I admit, is kind of begging for blandness at a restaurant like this. That's certainly what we got. The fish special was a whole sea breem, a decent piece of fish which was prepared in a very minimalistic way: grilled whole, head intact, bones intact, and virtually no other ingredients or flavors added. As I picked gingerly through the fish's tiny bones, I found myself longing for a clove of garlic or something to give the dish some taste. The other fish entree was cod supposedly prepared in a tomato sauce with garlic, olives, and capers. The cod was fair, you could certainly pick up the same fish in the frozen food section at Food Emporium and thaw it out for dinner. The tomato sauce tasted only a little like tomatoes, and not at all like garlic, olives, or capers. I literally sat there slurping on the sauce trying to find some trace of garlic flavor, but there was none to be found. It was reminiscent of the tomato sauce you get on your ziti in an airline meal, engineered to be flavorless so that you don't have to endure the last six hours of your flight with garlic-and-oregano breath.
All in all, I'd rate this an average neighborhood Italian restaurant. The room, ambience, and especially the wine list are above average, but the food was well below average. I think most Manhattanites could do better just walking down the block and ordering the veal picatta. If I lived within a few blocks of Giorgione, I might wander back sometime and see what they do with the pizza.
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