First Bite: GiGi’s Cucina Povera

As we mentioned in our Osteria 166 post earlier this week, we have a lot of new restaurants to check out this summer. We crossed another off our list when we visited GiGi’s Cucina Povera last Friday for dinner. Located in the former O’Connell’s Bistro on Kenmore Ave., it’s run by Chef/Owner Mary Ann Giordano, who previously ran the kitchen at Williamsville’s Creekview Restaurant. We’ve been following the progress of GiGi’s since the facebook page appeared in January of this year and have been anxiously waiting for the restaurant to open.

It’s understandable that someone might be a little cautious when hearing about an Italian restaurant opening in North Buffalo, but GiGi’s menu isn’t the average red sauce joint you might expect. The menu focuses on Sicilian dishes, similar to the ones you’d find in Mary’s cookbook that she released last year.

Quick Info:

  • Restaurant Type: Semi Fine Dining
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Location: Kenmore
  • Price: Appetizers $8-16, Entrees $8-22

The set up of the restaurant hasn’t changed much since our visit to O’Connell’s, and their very comfortable bar (which we grabbed a drink while waiting for our table) is still a large feature of the restaurant, however; local artwork now covers the walls and I noticed a large Italian mural is painted in the rear seating area. We didn’t have a reservation when we arrived around 7:30 on Friday night but we only had to wait about 15 minutes for a table to open, we spent that time looking over the menu.

We noticed while looking at the menu that Gigi’s attempts to use many local ingredients. We were especially excited to see the name Painted Meadow Farms in the menu, one of our favorites. Like many of our meals lately, Alli and I ordered a bunch of small plates to try and sample a range of the menu. We started our meal with Eggs Poached in Pomodoro ($8), Arancini ($9) and the Cauliflower Froggia ($8). Once Alli read the words “Egg Poached in Pomodoro” it was over, we knew that we had to order the dish as it combined two of her favorite things. The dish did not disappoint, the two poached eggs with runny yolk in a thicker tomato sauce and garlic toast tasted much better then I would have thought (although Alli would tell you that she knew from the start it would be fantastic). It’s a simple dish but with quality ingredients, it worked really well together. The Arancini was also really great, two medium sized risotto balls that had a nice crunchy exterior but the rice inside was still soft and had melted together with the mozzarella filling. The last appetizer we ordered was their Cauliflower Froggia, which, for lack of a better term, was basically an omelet with cooked cauliflower in the middle and topped with greens that had been tossed in a simple vinegar-based dressing. The dish was prepared well (the eggs were fluffy, cauliflower was cooked right) but it didn’t have a lot of flavor. The vinegar helped give the dish a kick but I think it still needed a little something extra.

For people who enjoy ordering several small plates, GiGi’s allows their guests to order half or full sizes of their pasta entrees. We took advantage of this and both ordered half orders of their Ravioli with Prosciutto, Butter and Sage ($9 for a half order) and their Pasta Carbonara ($10 for a half order). When I read the description of my ravioli dish, I had thought the ravioli had prosciutto as a filling for the dish. Instead the ricotta filled ravioli’s were coated in a butter sauce and then sprinkled with small pieces of crispy prosciutto. Regardless, the dish was still very good and executed perfectly. For the half order you only get 4 ravioli’s so I would strongly suggest getting a full order because you will definitely want more. Alli’s Pasta Carbonara was our only big disappointment with the meal. Instead of the creamy yolk based sauce that we normally expect, the pasta had a more water-y, thin butter sauce and we wondered if something went wrong in the kitchen.

Overall, we had a really good meal at GiGi’s. The atmosphere at the restaurant is very nice and the food was, for the most part, quite great. GiGi’s isn’t a red sauce joint, but that doesn’t mean their menu is too exotic for the less adventurous eaters; they have plenty of classic dishes on the menu. That said, I’m more excited to see unique items like Chicken Livers, Fried Cardoons and Roast Cod on the menu and to see another Western New York Italian restaurant proving that you don’t have to ‘Parm’ everything. I still think that Lombardo’s and Trattoria Aroma are still some of the best Italian restaurants in the area, but I’m definitely putting GiGi’s on the ‘up and coming’ list.

Photo Gallery:

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