Chef Chat, Part 2: How Do You Pronounce Giacomo's, Anyway?

Categories: Chef Chat

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Photo by Phaedra Cook
Chef Lynette Hawkins of Giacomo's Cibo e Vino fusses over a table at lunchtime

In part 1 of our Chef Chat with Lynette Hawkins of Giacomo's, we discussed how it started out being a counter service restaurant. The customers didn't like it, though, and the restaurant is now 100% table service. Why didn't it work, though? We find out here in Part 2.

We also get three recommendations on dishes to try from chef Hawkins and talk about her best friends.

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EOW: There are a couple of Italian places in town that have a counter service model (like Paulie's, for example) and it seems to work. Why didn't it work here?

LH: I think my big mistake was that I put [the names of the dishes on the menu] in Italian. Paulie's is simplified. It's in English and recognizable. Silly me, I have "orecchiette Giorgione" and no one can pronounce it much less figure out what the hell it is. I don't know what I was thinking. I was used to La Mora and forgot that "Oh, gosh. People understood the menu because the waiters were there to translate it for them." They had time to peruse the menu and weren't nervous because they were standing in line and people behind them were urging them to move on! That was a big mistake. Looking back on it, I wonder how I could have been so obtuse!

At the time it didn't even occur to me but now I know that's [the key] to successful counter service places. My menu needed to be explained. People needed to sit, relax and look at the menu at their leisure.

When I first opened, the counter service people were asking for lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, pizza... Pasta Carrabba... (laughs)

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Photo by Phaedra Cook
Chef Lynette Hawkins under the "pass" at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino

EOW: Oh, my!

LH: Yeah, we got a lot of Pasta Carrabba requests.

EOW: I'm sure Johnny was very flattered. Coincidentally, he was mentioned in our prior Chef Chat with Roy Shavartzapel of Common Bond!

LH: Oh wow!

EOW: Now, you've got quite a wine focus. What's the best way to explore what you've got here?

LH: I offer a lot of wines by the glass... I mean, a lot. I know it's at least a third of the list. I also offer three-ounce pours. I try to have diversity so I have something for everyone, even though my focus is mainly Italian. But I still have the necessary California Chardonnay and Cab because that is what people are comfortable with.

EOW: Pronounce your restaurant name for me.

LH: Gee-ock-a-mo.

EOW: Great. I've been mispronouncing it for years.

LH: Yeah. Some people pronounce it Wok-a-moes.

EOW: What? Like "guacamole?"

LH: Yeah, I know! They must think it's a Mexican restaurant.

This story continues on the next page.

Location Info

Giacomo's Cibo e Vino

3215 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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4 comments
XYYz
XYYz

an authentic class act, unlike most of the punk-azz hipster celebrity-chef wanna-bes in town

limoncello
limoncello

Pretty astute of her to recognize why her self-service concept didn't go over; and to take the blame herself. Today's breed of restaurant guys would have blamed the customer for being uneducated. Maybe tweeted out an insult.

sydros
sydros

Lots of people get embarrassed when they can't pronounce a food (or are not sure what the dish means).  But there is a great iphone app -  "Translate Italian Dishes" that gives you the pronunciation (pro-nun-see-AY-shun) of all Italian foods as well as describing what you're ordering - see  https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/id667908922?mt=8


Montalbano
Montalbano

Lynette is a true gem! I've spent countless happy hours at  Giacomo's eating, drinking, watching, learning. It has a nice, welcoming neighborhood feel, like a good Italian osteria or trattoria. I'm looking forward to the month when she does Sicilian specialties---my housekeeper used to make a mean pasta 'nsciatta, arancini and caponata di melanzane.

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