Fausto & Julia's Food For Thought
810 Morro Bay Boulevard
Morro Bay / 772-9200
"Anche l’occhio vuole la sua parte." (The eyes want their part.)
Walk into Giancarlo’s and you’re likely to be treated as if you are a family member. Cordial greetings come from several directions as you enter, everyone eager to make your dining experience a treat. It’s a classic Italian restaurant with linen tablecloths and dark wood. A floor to ceiling window forms one wall of the dining room, through which you can see their vast wine selection. Physically beautiful, this ristorante is well-lighted by the barrel vaulted window above during the day and warm lights at night. If you choose to sit closer to the kitchen, you will witness on T.V. whatever sports event is current (it was the basketball game the night we were there) and the hustle and bustle of excellent food being processed with care.
Fausto and I recommend sitting at the bar overlooking the preparation of authentic Italian cuisine. Open kitchens such as Giancarlo’s create their own form of entertainment, with or without the running narrative from the pizza chef. I am always amazed at the coordination of dishes, all needing to arrive at a table for four with precise timing. There are few secrets when you get to watch the chefs work their magic—a splash of this, a scoop of I-wonder-what-that-is. Now that I have seen it with my own eyes, I can try again at seasoning then searing a half head of romaine over the grill in order to replicate their amazing Caesar. Any restaurateur who is brave enough to serve anchovies on their salad gets extra points from us. Giancarlo’s is able to obtain a Spanish imported anchovy that is hard to find: fat, meaty, not too salty, and you can still tell it’s a fish. The glassy miniature versions that the sous chef let us taste are still on hold until he can figure out just exactly what to do with them to show off their translucence. Their house-made foccacia was tasty, but hold the green onions for me, please. Learning more about the wood-fired oven, and watching the delectable items going in and coming out of it, made me yearn for one of their four, fairly traditional pizzas. As I always say, "Next time!" The fact that Giancarlo himself was filleting the fish just prior to la cena is a testimony to the freshness of the ingredients.
Marco, our server, was more than happy to let us taste the wine about which we had curiosity. On our previous visit, I tried the California Flight with three pours; there is also an Italian Flight, and you can choose between red or white wine. We learned that Giancarlo’s is soon to be serving martinis, having been approved for their liquor license. They will shift the floor plan slightly, and add more appetizers (anyone fond of oysters?). Give them a few months to make it happen.
With almost as many specials as there are menu items, decision-making is difficult. When it comes to the appetizer, I fear we are stuck on the fritto misto, a mix of artichoke bits, shrimp, and calamari fried briefly and served with an aioli for dipping. On another night I will order the fromaggio alle mandorle: fried brie cheese, apricot marmalade, caramelized onion, crostini-toasted almonds, and, finally, pear relish. The Parmigiana di melanzane was a layered dish of finely sliced eggplant, mozzarella cheese, and a tasty red sauce. The other half was great for dinner at home the next day, maybe even better! A friend who compares cioppino wherever she goes had nothing but good things to say about it, from the layer of penne pasta below, to the ready to eat (not much fussing by hand) selection of seafood. Her supreme compliment was, "Saucy not soupy."
Long after closing time, on many occasions, Fausto and I have passed the ristorante and seen Giancarlo and a few stragglers continuing to chat into the night. I can see how closing for the evening would be difficult when you love what you do for a living.