It comes with the territory. Writing this column, I eat at a lot of different restaurants. Even so, sometimes I overlook a place. For a couple of years, this was the case with Giuseppe’s Italian Market. I kept meaning to go, but never got around to it until I was reminded recently when it was featured on an online coupon site. Inspired, Mom, Dad and I headed out for Italian, coupon in tow.
I liked it immediately when we arrived. Located on 1st Street SW, it’s a two-story space that incorporates both a deli and restaurant, and there are small kitchen/prep areas throughout, though I suspect the main kitchen is at the back. They had a duo playing live music (songs like Moon River) which we all appreciated, and added to the small, intimate atmosphere, as did the fact that despite being a Saturday night, it wasn’t packed.
We shared the Caesar salad to start. The dressing was tasty, and the lettuce was well-dressed, not swimming in it. For our mains, we chose the garganelli, a gnocchi, and the Mediterranean seafood soup.
The garganelli, a noodle I was unfamiliar with (if they hadn’t specified, I would have just thought it was a large penne noodle) made for a very pretty dish. The sauce was yellow with saffron, and studded with pink shrimp. The quality lived up to the appearance, as the sauce was creamy and the shrimp properly cooked.
Dad’s seafood “zuppa,” was served without a spoon (hence the quotation marks), which was a shame, because the tomato broth was really flavourful. At $25, it was massive bowl of seafood (twice the amount you would often find at that price), but the squid was tough.
Gnocchi is the house specialty at Giuseppe’s, our server explained, and they have several different varieties on the menu. She told us that their chef makes them in-house, and there’s no one in Calgary making them the way he does. I’d say she was right. They were like perfect little pillows in your mouth. I had the version with four cheese sauce, which was nice and creamy but (and I never thought I’d say this) possibly a tiny bit too cheesy.
Throughout the evening the staff was sincerely friendly and attentive, but the whole experience could have been better thought-out. First, they had to replace one menu and one plate, as both had food on them. To their credit, they caught both before we pointed them out, but they could have checked before bringing them to the table. There was no bread offered. There was no salt or pepper on the table, nor were we offered any fresh ground pepper on our food. As mentioned, we really enjoyed the music, but for a little while could barely hear it due to the clanking of cutlery (not sure whether they were washing, sorting, or what) from the elevated kitchen/prep area beside us.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about Giuseppe’s. The staff is warm, the food is flavourful, the value is obvious, and the ambiance is lovely. A bit more attention to a few small details, and I think I could love it. I’ll be back to try the pizza, which we didn’t get to that night. My internal debate – Monday is $10 pizza night, but the live music is on the weekends.
Giuseppe's Italian Market
1207 1 Street SW