Dining review

At Giovanni's, hearty Italian fare and an old-fashioned feel

For The Baltimore Sun

After more than 35 years, John Martino Jr. and his brother, Frank, are still cooking at Giovanni’s Restaurant in Edgewood.

The dining room has the white-cloth look of an earlier era when floors were carpeted, the wait staff wore ties and votive candles flickered romantically. The old-fashioned formality is endearing.

There’s a separate bar with a variety of beer, wines and cocktails like a spiked sangria and a strawberry margarita. Oldies music resonates from the sound system, and the restaurant is known for live music on weekends.

The hearty Italian fare is bountiful, with most portions large enough to share. For our appetizers, we were able to downsize to smaller versions.

The six house-made mozzarella sticks make you realize what breaded cheese should taste like. The parsley-dusted rods were delicious dipped into warm marinara sauce.

A bowl of seafood bisque was eerily orange. It’s made with a lobster base, which may explain the bold hue. We still savored the broth, rich with flecks of crabmeat and a lone shrimp.

Our server, who got off to a slow start with us by not bringing water in a timely matter and spilling wine on the pristine tablecloth, eventually got his act together. He told us that the seafood tomato cream pasta dish was one of the restaurant’s most popular offerings. We chose fettuccine for the luxurious rosy cream sauce that bathed the noodles along with fat shrimp, scallops and jumbo lump crabmeat.

It came with two slices of garlic bread and a fine salad showcasing romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, pepperoncini and red onions. The red-wine vinaigrette house dressing was smooth and flavorful.

The chicken Vincenzo was a massive mound that arrived at our table smothered in melted mozzarella cheese and resting in a pool of excellent marinara sauce. A few knife cuts revealed a tender breaded chicken breast stuffed with creamy ricotta and prosciuttini (thinly sliced spiced ham). It was wonderful, and yes, we had leftovers.

The house-made cannoli was an engaging version of the staple Italian dessert. The crispy pastry tube was overflowing with sweetened, whipped ricotta and dotted with chocolate jimmies.

We were happy to find out that “Rita’s Delight” by the eponymous local bakery Desserts by Rita was available. The delectable yellow cake was soft and airy with vanilla custard, crushed pineapple and a whipped-cream frosting showered with coconut.

There’s something comforting about a restaurant that consistently feeds its customers so well. The next generation is already working at the family-owned restaurant, promising a smooth transition for the future.



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