Favorite

That's Amore 

Giacomo's owners offer authentic Italian cuisine and friendly conversation.

These days, in the foothills of Tucson, the choices for dining out are endless. Brand-new plazas are bringing the affluent together to sip martinis and compare SUVs.

On a recent visit to the northeast side of town, I decided to skip all the hype and head to a little place called Giacomo's. It's located at Kolb Road and Sunrise Drive and occupies a tiny space in the large Ventana Village. I had heard the name before, and I knew they boasted authentic Italian cuisine. I was unaware, however, of just how new the restaurant is.

Chef Giacomo and his lovely wife, Gina, opened the restaurant in April. Running a restaurant is nothing new to Giacomo, as he did it for five years in England before trying his luck in Tucson. Transplanted here from upstate New York, the couple has found their niche in the Old Pueblo. I was able to learn a little more about the place by chatting with them. I found our conversations to be a special touch that actually made our night.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were surprised to see only one other table occupied. Although there are just nine tables, the place seemed rather empty. As for the atmosphere, there didn't seem to be much of one, but the night was still young. One of the two servers greeted us and promptly directed us to a table in the corner of the cozy restaurant. The walls were adorned with pictures of Italy's coastline and bordered with fancy grape wallpaper. I was reminded of something straight out of my Grandpa's kitchen.

Our server was quick to offer drinks. Though the wine list is not extensive by any means, there is something for everyone. Giacomo's menu lists only one red wine and one white wine by the glass, but with the prices as fair as they are, everyone at the table can have a bottle.

The first thing on the menu to grab our attention was the cozze alla diavola ($5.75). For the price, we were expecting four or five mussels. Instead, we were surprised to find a dozen mussels swimming in a spicy homemade red sauce--and I emphasize spicy. After three water refills, the server assured us that next time, they could be made with a little less chile. I do recommend trying the dish as is. The flavor is outstanding, and, of course, the mussels are served with plenty of bread to soak up anything extra on the plate.

We took a little time to enjoy our wine and decide on entrées. We nibbled on the house salad, prepared with the chef's special lemon-olive oil dressing and topped with crumbled bleu cheese. It was definitely a nice, light beginning to the meal. Our server made a few recommendations at our request, bragging that every chicken dish was wonderful. I wish I had been in more of a pasta mood that night, because the penne alla vodka ($12.95) was said to be divine. By the looks of it two tables down, it would not have been a bad choice. However, I went with one of her chicken recommendations.

I ordered one of the house dishes. The pollo Giacomo ($15.95) lived up to all expectations. At first, I was hesitant to order a chicken dish, as I wanted something a little more exciting. But after just one bite, I was happy that I did. The juicy chicken breast was sautéed with button mushrooms in a rich cream sauce and served with your usual broccoli, carrots and cauliflower--but just wait until you taste the "usual" vegetables. I commented to co-owner Gina how nice it was to have these vegetables with some flavor. It's amazing what some chefs are missing when they leave out garlic.

My date chose another one of the server's recommendations, the veal saltimboca ($16.95). It was a classic dish that lived up to its name. The tender veal was topped with thinly sliced proscuitto and a generous layer of fresh mozzarella. My date was able to polish it off, though it was a little heavy on the butter. There were many other dinner options, from the sogliola al limone ($15.95)--filet of sole sautéed with white wine, butter and lemon juice--to lasagna casalinga ($11.95), a homestyle lasagna in a Bechamel and Bolognese sauce. If our dishes were an indication of the rest of the menu, I would feel comfortable ordering anything at Giacomo's.

When the dessert menus arrived, I was surprised to find only the tiramisu ($3.75) was homemade. The rest are apparently imported directly from Italy. The tiramisu was the only obvious choice for me. It was fine, yet I was hoping for a little more. The cake was layered with a fair amount of mascarpone cheese, but it lacked the espresso flavor I was looking for. Still, it took us no time to scrape the plate clean. Not feeling that we had any room for another morsel of food, we finished things off with a refreshing shot of Lemoncello liquor ($2.95).

It was truly a fine dinner. We were pleased with the service, and the food was absolutely delicious. And did I mention how reasonably priced Giacomo's is? The appetizers range from $3.95 to $6.75 and the entrées from $10.95 to $16.95. Gina also mentioned that catering is available for the holidays. It probably wouldn't be so bad to skip the turkey and go straight for Giacomo's lasagna and tiramisu.

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