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Giacomo’s, always a fine choice for wining and dining

Some of the small plates served at Giacomo's
Some of the small plates served at Giacomo's

The heavy construction on Westheimer right in front of Giacomo’s was not hurting business last night. With the exception of some tables on the steamy patio, the restaurant was fully booked with a queue of diners from 7:15 until at least 9:00 last night. Even the eight seats at the bar were full. This is testament to the enjoyable utility of Giacomo’s, a casual and inviting Italian establishment across from River Oaks.

We were there for a glass of wine or two (or three or four, as it turned out), rather than the food. And Giacomo’s works very well for both dining and for just visiting for a glass of wine. Giacomo’s is one of my favorite places in Houston for wine. The wine list sports about seventy bottles, mostly Italian, most of which are interesting bottles from interesting regions. There is a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, a solid white from the very underrated appellation in Marche, a clean-tasting Vermentino from Sardinia, a sturdy blend of Aglianico and Montepulciano from the top producer in the region of Molise, a couple of different Rosso di Montalcinos, several Barolos and Barbarescos, and much more. Among the non-Italians, there are a couple of pleasant Pinot Noirs from Oregon and Willamette Valley, a nice Vouvray and too-easy-to-drink rosé from Tavel. The wines seem quite well chosen for both the locale and the Tuscan-inspired cooking at Giacomo’s.

There is a lot from which to choose and it can be a fun and relatively inexpensive place to try new wines. Most are under $10 by the glass, very unusual these days, especially for such quality wines. By the glass, the wines are available in 3- and 6-ounce pours, and also a quartino, a small carafe that is just a little more than a single glass. I don’t remember a misstep in the many glasses and bottles I have ordered, but, even if you do not like a particular style or wine, a wrong choice is not much of a burden. Most of the bottles at Giacomo’s are priced well under $50. Only a half-dozen or so cross that mark, and there are two dozen bottles priced under $30, which includes a prosecco from the top sub-region of Conegliano e Valdobbiadene.

During last night’s visit, proprietor Lynette Hawkins steered us to an order of crostini accompanied with a trio of toppings: chicken liver pâté, spuma di mortadella, a mousse of whipped mortadella, ricotta and parmigiano, and a tuna mousse. In Italy, you cannot drink without being food, after all. Featuring toasted slices from a quality, airy baguette as the base – thankfully not the dense, saltless bread that is served in Tuscany – these were excellent, especially the chicken liver pâté, which was more mild and flavorful than you might expect. When consumed with a very nice light rosé from the distinctive Lagrein grape from Alto Adige that Hawkins suggested, this was a very pleasant way to start the weekend.

3215 Westheimer (between Kirby and Echo), 77098, (713) 522-1934