You'd never guess that Chef Matteo Niccoli of the East Village's Giano spends all day on his feet, bent over hot pots of splattering oil and steamy boiling water. He bounces around his and wine director Paulo Rossi's restaurant in a floppy chef's hat, with an energy comparable to that of an energetic puppy. But his cooking is much more sophisticated!
Giano's Milanese menu highlights homemade pastas in rich and flavorful sauces unique to New York's Italian culinary scene.
On the seasonally changing menu, Gnocchi 4 Formaggi ($14.95) remains Giano's signature dish. The gnoochi are impossibly fluffy, melting in your mouth alongside a rush of melted parmesano, tallegio, garganzola, and fontina (all imported from Italy). As Paolo says while he adds fresh pepper to your steamy dish, "It is the manefestation of love in gnocchi form." It is indeed. Matteo, who learned pasta-making from his grandmother in Italy before who could even see over the kitchen counter, creates a cheesy masterpiece comforting on the coldest days of winter yet homehow still cravable in the humid July heat.
And you can't go wrong with Niccoli's Spaghetti al Pomodoro Fresco ($12.95), a simple dish he claims as his favorite. Homemade spaghetti is tossed with fresh tomato sauce, made from local greenmarket tomatoes (cherry, or otherwise, depending on the season) and imported San Marzano tomatoes. The pasta is served alongside a dollop of basil pesto, to be mixed into the fragrant dish for an extra boost of fresh flavor.
In addition to being a top notch pasta chef, Niccoli is also a talented pastry chef, because what's one without the other? After a heavy pasta dinner, it may be tough to imagine dessert, but skipping the impossibly fluffy tiramisu is a rookie mistake.
Giano celebrates its 6th Birthday in January with hopefully many more years of fantastic homemade pasta ahead.