While the title I have chosen here may appear as though I have shot myself in the foot, I suggest you read on.
Admittedly, I had been to this Norton Street restaurant a couple of times some years ago and had enjoyed it back then.
Just recently, when one of our group was organizing a get together, he suggested Gioia Cafe and as usual, I turned to my trusty Trip Adviser app to check how this place was now traveling. And the reviews were not encouraging, however, as it was someone else's call, I chose not to be a stick in the mud and confirmed my availability.
This restaurant is set in what was once a service station just near the Marion Street intersection. As a result, there are in fact perhaps a dozen or so parking spots on what was the forecourt of the service station. If you can grab one of these you can save yourself having to run the gauntlet of the local parking rangers - even in the side streets here, ticket parking is enforced to 10pm!
Long gone are the oily floors and smells of petrol, replaced with travertine tiles and the aroma of Italian cooking. The panel lift lube bay doors are a nostalgic touch of what this building was in a former life.
We were shown to a long table (there were 10 of us) by our waiter, provided with menus and water - the latter is so simple but such a must these days.
Our waiter returned with some drinks we had ordered and made some recommendations from the menu and told of some specials. The menu itself appears quite extensive but relatively uncomplicated with the expected range of pasta, pizza, salads, steak/veal, chicken and and fish dishes. The salt and pepper calamari was recommended as share plates for entree and we obliged.
Well there are only 2 ways to do calamari, right and wrong. This calamari was superb, soft and tender suggesting it was cooked lightly and to perfection. My trust in the poor reviews I had read was beginning to wane.
Most of us stuck with traditional pasta dishes for mains, although pizzas were ordered by the children. Certainly no complaints there. My fettuccine boscaiola arrived on a large plate, almost filling the plate. The size was very generous. And I was not to be disappointed. Great flavors, garlic, mushrooms and bacon. I know it's been said before but the small cost to a restaurant to take the size of a serving from "too little" to "generous" is returned exponentially by satiated customers. I'm not suggesting over eating - I'm talking quality, satisfaction and value.
And then came dessert! OMG. Home made tiramisu and home made ricotta cheese cake. My wife and I had to share - it was just too good. Both were generous serves again, with a scoop of ice cream (what else?) and washed down with a well made coffee.
Service was friendly and efficient, atmosphere very relaxed.
All in all, a great night for our group - I don't think I'll need to eat again for a couple of days!
And yes, we'll be back soon.
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