Autumnal Dining at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino

Categories: On the Menu

cichetti.jpg
Photo by Henry Thiel
Cichetti sampler (Italian bread is good, foccacia is better).
I blinked and suddenly it really feels like fall. I love that I no longer have to worry about my pumpkins rotting in triple-digit temperatures and that I can enjoy warm, hearty seasonal dishes without sweating buckets from the ambient heat, the sad fate of Mai Pham when she went to Giacomo's Cibo e Vino.

During my visit, however, I sat in the main dining room (not the sun room). Even after two hours of eating I didn't want to leave. Not that it was so terribly frigid outside that I couldn't face the short walk to my car, though I certainly was enjoying the dim cozy lighting and the warm splashes of color accenting the walls. The luxuriant food, especially one particular dish (more after the jump) ushered me into a state of near-paralysis. I was stuffed to the gills, definitely needed to do some reading for class, yet wanted to keep eating.

My friend and I started with an array of cichetti, hot and cold Italian tapas of sorts that one traditionally nibbles at a bar in between sips of wine and/or Peroni. Standout selections include the juicy roast beets with fennel, tarragon, and walnuts, and the frutti di mare, a citrusy mixture of herbs and poached shrimp and calamari. Feeling a bit giddy, I mentally nicknamed this first part of the meal "The Octopus's Garden" for its wonderful mix of seafood and botanical flavors.

More dignified diners probably use their forks to sample the cichetti; I preferred to seize bites (and sop up any delicious residual oil/juices) with pieces of fragrant, spongy focaccia. I'm glad I exhibited some restraint in my bread consumption, considering the carbohydrate explosion that was to follow in the form of the transcendent butternut squash risotto with seared scallops.

butternut squash risotto.jpg
Photo by Henry Thiel
Butternut Squash Risotto with Mushrooms and Cranberries. Tastes like Italian Thanksgiving.
My risotto presented a creamy yet firm texture and was infused sage and thyme. The squash was strong but not dominant, thanks to the competing and complementary flavors of tart cranberries and smoky mushrooms. And crowning the mountain of rice were three buttery tender scallops. It was the perfect balance of meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables, a cornucopia of comforting autumnal tastes.

In response to Mai's post, commenter HiggenbothomH remarked:

Lynette [Hawkins] can really cook great Italian. It's too bad she doesn't invite the sub 40 food lovers into her place.

I certainly agree with the first claim but am more than a bit wary of the second. True, on a Tuesday night I was one of the youngest patrons, but I certainly didn't feel as if I was at The Hearth and Kettle for the early bird salt bomb special. If "sub 40 food lovers" aren't flocking to Giacomo's Cibo e Vino, that's their loss, though selfishly I wouldn't mind if the restaurant stayed on the quiet side. Lynette's cooking, however, deserves a greater following from Houstonians of all ages.



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Location Info

Giacomo's Cibo e Vino

3215 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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3 comments
FoodieKate
FoodieKate

The pumpkin risotto is amazing and, if you're a vegetarian like me, they are happy to serve you up the risotto without the scallops.  If you're a pumpkin lover, make sure to get a bite of this before it's gone!

Barry
Barry

Hey, I am in my mid-twenties, and my friends and I eat atGiacomo’s at least once a week. We love Lynette and her staff. Wonderfulpeople. (I just found out that Lynette used to own La Mora, on Lovett Blvd. inMontrose. No wonder the food is so amazing!

 

Yes, there are people over 50, and there are kids(yes, younger then myself - LOL.) I like the fact that there are all age groupsat Giacomo’s. I guess the common factor we share is that we all love the food. Have yourtried any of their amazingly cheap Italian wines? My goal is to work my waythrough the menu and wine list.

Harristaleom
Harristaleom

Quite right! The crowd isn't completely old and infirm, as was true of Andre's down the street before they closed. On the other hand, it's more geriatric than anything at West Ave, or other Italian places like Poscol or Dolce Vita.

While I agree that the cooking is great, I wish she'd make an appeal to the under 50 set so I don't feel like I'm dining with my parents friends.

btw: that risotto looks amazing!

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