Posh? No. Warm, friendly and comfortable? Yes. Gigi’s Cucina Povera is a lovely neighborhood restaurant on Kenmore Ave in Kenmore. We entered by the back door off the primary parking area, and were greeted and seated immediately. The enchanting melodies of Andréa Bocelli were mostly drowned out by the chit chat of happy customers.
The restaurant serves Sicilian and Mediterranean “peasant-style fare”. The main dining area has about 10 tables on a slightly raised section. This is adjoined by a stylish circular bar and another 5-6 tables on the walls adjacent. “Sicilian” countryside art, a village mural and shuttered window treatment give the place a nice homey feel.
The website reads “In our ‘poor kitchen’ the philosophy is simple: Make great food with fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, transforming the simple into more than the sum of its parts. Our menu includes Sicilian comfort food and peasant-style fare like pasta dishes, risotto-based dishes, seafood, and slow cooked meats. Daily specials feature fresh, local produce.”
Our server, friendly and helpful throughout, brought out the complimentary Gigi signature Bread Board. Seasoned olive oil, fava bean puree and bread, the perfect start for a hungry twosome. It was Restaurant Week so we tried a little from each menu. For starters the RW menu offered Shrimp Marinati, Sicilian Chopped Salad, or Arancini. We went with the Sicilian Chopped Salad, a really nice combination of feta, onion, olives, garbanzo beans and greens, lightly dressed in oil and vinegar. For entrées they offered a Boneless Pork Chop, Riso alla Pitocca (chicken and rice), or Pasta alla Norma. We opted for the Pasta alla Norma – sautéed eggplant, Pomodoro, fresh herbs, and ricotto with spaghetti. This had an indecipherable goodness to it. I know that isn’t very descriptive. I’m not sure what it was, maybe the result of fresh ingredients, or a low and slow cooking method – just good.
From the main menu we ordered an appetizer of Grilled Sausage and Tuscan White Beans – mascarpone polenta, cherry tomato salad and asiago $9.95. With these ingredients it was a no brainer for me. Loved the combination. For an entree we tried the Pork Scaloppine – sautéed with cremini mushrooms, rosemary, juniper berries and marsala $18.95. It came with small, roasted red potatoes, sautéed greens and a dinner salad. Perhaps a bit light on the mushrooms, but it was rich and flavorful, and the pork was so tender you could effortlessly cut it with a fork.
For dessert the Restaurant Week menu offered Cannoli, Carmel Sea Salt gelato with biscotti, or lemoncello. We went with the gelato. It was good.
They have a nice list of Italian and Sicilian wines. [See here] We tried the Rodano Chianti Classic for $34 which was excellent. More flavor and depth than most Chiantis.
Some dishes to go back for:
- Sappho’s Salad – field greens with apples, walnuts, gorgonzola, sprouts, golden raisins, shaved fennel, and sunflower seeds $9.95;
- Sicilian Wedge – grilled Delmonico Steak, roasted potatoes, iceberg wedge, creamy gorgonzola dressing, pancetta, tomato, cucumber, and pickled red onion $15.95
- Eggs Poached in Pomodoro – Garlic Crostini $ 7.95
- Sicilian Sampler – 1 fried Cardoon, 1 Arancini, and 1 Artichoke fritter $10.95
Pastas (large and small; whole grain or gluten free pasta available)
- Bucatini Amatriciana – pancetta, tomato, hot pepper flakes, white wine, and romano cheese – $8.95/$15.95
- Spaghetti Carbonara – pancetta, pecorino, butter, and egg -$ 9.95/ $16.95
- Spaghetti Mezzanotte (midnight spaghetti)- olive oil, garlic, hot pepper, romano, and parsley -$ 7.95/$11.95
- Bistecca Palermo – charbroiled Delmonico steak with rosemary, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil – $27.95
- Seared Diver Sea Scallops – pancetta, braised greens, tomato and saffron risotto – $24.95
Mama Dano’s Sunday Supper
One activity I’d love to catch is Mama Dano’s Sunday Supper, served family style 4pm-9pm Sunday evenings for a real “Sicilian country atmosphere”. Dinner is house salad, bread board, spaghetti with Sunday’s slow simmered sauce, meatballs, herb roasted chicken – parties of 3 or more. Adults $14.95, Children $7.95.
Gigi’s is owned and operated by Mary Ann Giordano. She is also the chef and co-authored of “The Saint Joseph’s Day Table Cookbook,” along with her father. When her work was done she came out front and mingled with the customers. Always a good sign of a confident cook.