Tried Giovanni's in Culver City last week as a result of reading about it on this board (Dommy!'s thread).
We've been in Culver City three years, after 11 in Santa Monica and 6 in Fairfax area. So we went from Damiano's/that place across from Farmer's Market that's a cafeteria and I can't remember the name to Bruno's/Alejo's/Pasta Factory/DaVita's to Alejo's/Pasta Factory/Villa Italian in our quest for good, neighborhood Italian. (We did Fritto Misto for a while, too. but the pasta was always overcooked, so we stopped going. Heard they have gotten better, but we don't live near it anymore anyway). Also tried, Caffe Roberto in CC ... once.
Then I read about Giovanni's last week here and we were there that night.
Very good meal. Not exactly in the "spaghetti and meatballs" vein we usually seek, but a great dinner nonetheless.
I had pasta ragu prepared with ground chicken and turkey. Rigatoni. The sauce was really well spiced with a good tomato flavor and best of all a very meaty quality. My wife tried it and liked it a lot, she thinks Alejo's/Pasta Factory overdoes the garlic and liked the fact that it wasn't too garlicky (she actually loves garlic, i.e. Zankou, but doesn't like when the garlic overwhelms other flavors.) The pasta was done to perfection. Actually, I shared this dish with my younger son (9) and we shared a salad. Thanks to Chowhound, I knew the pasta dishes were large enough to share.
My teenaged son devoured a plateful of fettucini alfredo. I didn't try it, because I'm not into things that are too cheesy. He seemed to love it - though a 14-year-old who plays football tends to eat everything in site. Still, he didn't complain or grunt and from him that's high praise.
Wife had salmon pasta in a pink sauce. Excellent. I tasted a little and the salmon had a very fresh flavor and the bowtie pasta was prepared well. There was bread and olive oil/vinegar on the table with all the refills you want.
The desserts looked great, but we were too full.
All in all a fine dinner and we'll be back.
Side note number one: Their website says that they sometimes have a spicy spaghetti and meatballs special, but I learned that they only have in on the weekends, mostly. I have to go back and try that.
Side note number two: My wife says it was very comparable to Fioretto. I've never been there. Similar sort of menu, she said, but she thought Giovanni's in Culver City was better and more reasonable. I spent about 40 bucks for four, she spent just about that on a night when I wasn't with her and the kids.
Final note: Just to clarify, in our house (and only our house) we distinguish between Italian restaurants that do the spaghetti and meatballs/lasagna/chicken parmagiana thing and those with "fancier" menus. Purely our distinction, I'm sure. Giovanni's is is a bit fancier than that - it's not red-checkered table cloths. Great food, though and I can't wait to go back to try more things. But I still seek the perfect red-checked-table clothed thing. I'm Brooklyn-born and even though we aren't Italian, was raised sort of "Italian food as a second diet." I'll keep looking ...
And thanks Dommy! !