Sunday, December 29, 2013

“Did You Play Bingo Today?”

We’ll get back to that question later.

I don’t remember when the episode of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives first aired where he visited Giuseppe’s on 28th in Phoenix, but we have wanted to visit this small Italian bistro (or is it a trattoria) ever since.
But time never permitted on our last visit here, so we were determined to make this one of our first Phoenix stops.

“Richard Bock is the owner and operator of Giuseppe's on 28th since he purchased it on June 1, 2002. He studied cooking in Italy for nine years while performing as Principal Cellist in Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra…. As a result of all those years, living and fitting in perfectly with the people and lifestyle, he enjoyed all the fun times at the table with friends, sipping fabulous wine and studying how they lived. He learned how to cook from all his friends, their mothers and grandmothers and just couldn't get enough. He eventually went back to New York and immediately started working in the studios in the New York scene, but he missed Italy and the finer things in life. He knew sooner or later he would have a place that would give him some of those feelings that he missed....the trattoria style and food” (giuseppeson28th.com).
“Giuseppe's has been around since the early '80s, and has gone through anywhere from four to six owners, depending on whom you ask. But the current owner/chef Richard Bock…deserves most of the credit for re-creating Giuseppe's as a…pasta house that can rival the big boys. Bock's musical C.V. is impressive. The cat's played with everyone from Celine Dion and Tony Bennett to Frank Sinatra and Luciano Pavarotti. In the front of the restaurant are autographed pics from friends like Doc Severinsen of the old Tonight Show fame (his autographed photo is on the right on the black strip in the photo below), and in the back, there's a passageway lined with Bock's achievements as a musician…” (Stephen Lemons at phoenixnewtimes.com).
So what happens when Guy Fieri comes to town?
“Ever since the show’s producers contacted Richard Boc in summer 2008…his quaint Italian restaurant in Phoenix has never been empty. It’s a far cry from when he bought it…and couldn’t tempt a customer with a free meal. ‘The timing couldn’t have been better…. We’re very busy all the time. It’s been a blessing.’ During the two-day shoot…Fieri and his team told Boc the show would change his business forever. ‘What they pretty much told me would happen, has happened,’ he said” (Chris Casacchia at bizjournals.com).

The trattoria is small with only thirty-two seats indoors plus additional seating on the front patio. The cloth table covers are themselves covered with white paper.
One thing you won’t find on the tables are salt and pepper shakers from which I conclude that this is a chef serious about his food and doesn’t want you messing with it.

The specials change daily and are listed above and next to the counter where you place your orders. And in addition to the specials, there is a permanent menu. We ordered from each.
We started by sharing an order of bruschetta and were able to choose four toppings from a list that included fresh tomato and basil, sauteed bell peppers, gorgonzola cheese and honey, prosciutto with figs and goat cheese, pesto and fresh tomato, chevre (goat cheese) and marinated sun-dried tomatoes, and chicken livers with capers and anchovies. Since you can “mix and match,” we ordered two tomato and basil and one each of the chevre and sun-dried tomatoes and prosciutto with figs and goat cheese.
All three were delicious but the absolute star was the prosciutto/figs/goat cheese. You got the sweetness of the figs, the saltiness of the prosciutto, and the slight sharpness from the cheese. All of those flavors had a party in our mouths.

I looked to the specials board to make my selection. The open ravioli with wild mushroom stew was enticing, but I finally selected the clams in red sauce over Giuseppe’s house-made fresh pasta. As an interesting touch, I was asked whether I wanted all of my clams chopped or wanted some left in the shell. As you can see from the photo, I chose the latter.
Even at that, the red sauce was meaty with large chunks of chopped clams and their slightly chewy texture was a nice counterpoint to the softer pasta. The sauce, while thick, bore no relationship to the sweetish red “gravy” that predominates in the East. And there was just enough sauce to coat the linguini.

We went to Giuseppe’s knowing that one of us would order the Bolognese Ragu made with seven different meats that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and has inspired at least one “knock-off” recipe. I don’t recall what seven meats are used other than remembering that Richard Boc stuck some chicken legs into the ragu with the end bones protruding. And I also remember that this cooks for a long period of time.
So did the Bolognese meet our expectations? No. It exceeded them. The ragu had a mellow flavor from the long cooking with all of the meats. And the meat itself was soft and pillowy in a comforting rather than unpleasant way. While some may want a bit of parmesan cheese, the strong taste of cheese would have upset the balance of flavors.

And the meal was finished with our sharing a slice of flourless chocolate cake with the restaurant’s house-made Neapolitan gelato.
Time to get back to the opening question of this blog. (Did you think I had forgotten?) Meet Cindi who during our visit took the counter orders and served our meals. She seems to know everyone and what they do and will greet the regulars with questions about what they’ve been up to.
So memorable is she that Stephen Lemons at phoenixnewtimes.com wrote: “I must mention in passing that Giuseppe's longtime waitress Cindi Gault provides flawless service with true warmth, an aspect of dining I'm newly appreciative of….”

Some things are worth the wait, and so was our noontime visit to the 5.0 Addie trattoria.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.