I hope everyone is recovering nicely from an overdose of turkey and all the traditional trimmings. Going out to eat is probably one of the last things on your mind the day after Thanksgiving, but you need your energy for all those Black Friday sales.
On a recent Saturday, a friend and I visited Giovanni’s in Piney Flats for an Italian meal. Best of all, there’s scarcely any turkey on the menu other than the Turkey and Cheese Sub.
For a Saturday evening, the restaurant was fairly quiet with the exception of several carryout orders customers picked up during our visit. The restaurant offers a pleasant dining room with light taupe walls and an assortment of booths and tables with benches and chairs upholstered with brown vinyl. The walls are decorated with an assortment of framed prints of Italian scenes, as well as some tiles bearing various depictions of chefs. The windows are fitted with bamboo shades. Two wall-mounted television sets complete the decor.
A server invited us to choose a table, and we chose a spacious booth. She provided us with menus and took our beverage orders. When we asked about a special on the board at the front of the restaurant, however, she wasn’t very informed about the dish in question. A trip to the kitchen didn’t yield much in the way of additional information. Fortunately, the menu is fairly detailed in describing the available items.
We looked over the menu and decided to start with an appetizer. Our options included Bruschetta, Italian Garlic Knots, Spinach and Cheese Dip, Mozzarella Sticks, Buffalo Shrimp and Pizza Fries, which consists of french fries baked with mozzarella cheese and bacon. We decided to try the Cheesy Breadsticks, which come in a large and small size. Made from the eatery’s pizza dough, this appetizer is baked with a generous topping of mozzarella cheese, sprinkled with some herbs and served with marinara sauce. I liked the marinara sauce, which was a full-bodied sweet sauce with just enough acidity to add some pleasant tartness.
We then set about the task of choosing our entrees. The menu offers a selection of subs, gyros and sandwiches, as well as pasta and oven-baked dishes, pizza, stromboli and calzones. There’s also a selection of entree salads, including Chef Salad, Greek Salad, Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad and Giovanni’s Salad, which consists of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, peperoncinis, kalamata olives, feta cheese, croutons and grilled chicken.
Tempting me were several of the pasta and oven-baked selections, including Shrimp Alfredo, Lobster Ravioli, Tomato Basil Chicken Pasta, Eggplant Parmigiana and Spaghetti Aglioeolio, which is a dish of spaghetti noodles tossed in a homemade garlic and olive oil sauce and topped with parsley and Romano cheese. Some of the sandwiches also got my attention, including the Philly Cheese Steak Hoagie and the Meatball Parmigiana Sub.
I decided to order the Penne Alla Siciliana. This dish consists of penne pasta cooked in a homemade marinara sauce that is topped with fried breaded eggplant and baked mozzarella cheese. The pasta dishes are accompanied by a choice of House or Caesar Salad, and I paired my dish with a House Salad with blue cheese dressing.
My dining partner chose the Mediterranean Shrimp Pasta, which consists of shrimp sauteed with fresh tomatoes, basil, red onions and mushrooms and cooked in roasted red pepper sauce before being served over fettuccine noodles in olive oil. He paired his meal with a Caesar Salad.
The salads arrived slightly ahead of the main dishes. My House Salad featured iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges, red onions, green bell pepper strips and croutons. My friend’s Caesar Salad featured the traditional Romaine lettuce with large croutons, parmesan cheese and a tangy Caesar dressing. Both salads were modest but refreshing.
The pasta dishes arrived close on the heels of the salads, so we continued to enjoy the salads as we also tried the main dishes. We were both pleased with our orders.
My Penne Alla Siciliana was a hearty dish, dusted with a sprinkling of herbs and accompanied by a piece of Garlic Bread. The penne pasta was well prepared. I really enjoyed the pieces of lightly breaded fried eggplant. My friend also liked his dish, particularly the flavorful roasted red pepper sauce that brought all of the ingredients into a tasty harmony.
We skipped dessert, but I did think ahead to the next day by ordering a small carryout pizza. Choices for pies include the Brooklyn Bridge with spinach and feta, the Manhattan Bridge with pineapple, ham and cheese, as well as Greek, Meatlovers and Vegetarian. I chose to try a 10-inch Philadelphia Pizza, which features grilled steak, onions, green peppers and fresh tomatoes as toppings. Re-heated the following day, this pizza still tasted great. The pie featured a medium thick crust, plenty of cheese and sauce and a melding of some tasty ingredients.
Giovanni’s is a regional chain of Italian restaurants that also includes a location in Blountville and Boones Creek. I’ve eaten at the other two locations, but this was my first dining experience at the Piney Flats location. The service was generally helpful and attentive, but the servers should probably brush up on their knowledge of the menu.
So, if you’re looking for a quick meal in between holiday shopping trips or just picking up a pizza for dining at home, consider a visit to Giovanni’s in Piney Flats.
AT A GLANCE: Giovanni’s Italiano Cucina, 5653 Highway 11E, Piney Flats. 391-0222. Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Entrees range from $5.99-$17.99. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available.