>> Monday, December 5, 2011
My husband loves everything to do with the ocean, snorkeling and scuba diving, even just the smell and sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks amazes him. So needless to say he’s a big BIG fan of seafood as well. It just goes hand in hand right? However, we live in Calgary. Great seafood is hard to come by in our little land locked part of the world. So the last thing we expected when we went for dinner at Giuseppe’s Italian Market, was to get some of the best seafood in town, matching some of those great cities by the sea.
Atmosphere: Casual market downstairs serving forno baked pizzas and Italian products, but hidden upstairs in a quiet and secluded dining area, great for romantic dinners.
Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s
Food and Wine: Luckily from reading previous reviews I knew just to walk right past the market area downstairs and straight for the stairs leading up to the restaurant. The actual dining area is more of a balcony that overlooks the market below and can be missed if you’re not looking for it.
It was a slow start because they didn’t have our reservations and our waiter mentioned that their wine list was currently being updated and he had to check with the kitchen to see what they had on hand, same with the specials of the evening.
After finally getting settled, the waiter brought us some bread with olive oil, balsamic and olives. We perused their menu and decided to start with two appetizers the Cozze Alla Marinara (Marinara Mussels). We were shocked at how many mussels came with the order, which consisted of fresh mussels sautéed with garlic, white wine, chili flakes and tomato sauce served with crispy crostinis. The mussels were big and juicy, I’ve personally never seen them so big and they looked more like oysters then mussels (I wonder who their distributor is?). The sauce was perfectly balanced, didn’t overwhelm the mussels and we couldn’t stop using the bread to sop it all up.
Our second appie plate was the Calamari Alla Puttanesca, seared calamari with olives, capers, anchovies, chili flakes and tomato sauce. It isn’t very often that I can find grilled calamari at a restaurant and I always order it when I do because you can really taste the sweetness of the squid. The saltiness of the olives, capers and anchovies were a perfect contrast to the tart tomatoes and the squid. The calamari was perfectly cooked. We both really enjoyed the great sauce and couldn’t stop dipping in to it either. Our bread was running really low by this point, I was tempted to ask for more but from the size of our appies, I had a feeling our entrees were going to be quite large as well.
When they did arrive, my husband ordered the Linguine alla Pescatora (seafood linguine) with prawns, clams, (more) mussels, calamari in a spicy garlic, basil tomato sauce. The portion was fairly large as expected and the noodles were cooked al dente. The seafood was fresh like our starters with prawns being slightly overcooked. This could be due to the fact that the noodles were prepared a little early and were ready before we were done our appetizers, so the dish sat out a bit longer then ideal. However it didn’t ruin the overall taste.
I heard the pizza was good, some saying it was better than other local pizza restaurants in town, so I just had to try it. They had a good selection but I decided on their house named Giuseppe pizza. It featured mozzarella, hot pancetta, red onions, and sundried tomatoes on a spicy red sauce. It was a traditional forno baked Italian thin crust pizza and the blend of toppings complimented one another. One thing I did miss on the pizza was a bit of greens. I personally would have liked it even better with a bit of spinach or arugula to give it that little something extra. It wasn’t a bad pizza though (wasn’t the best since I prefer a chewier crust) and I wouldn’t mind trying some of their other combinations next time.
For dessert, our waiter again had to check with the kitchen for the dessert of the day, which was carrot cake. Definitely calling my name! The cake was moist, nicely flavoured with raisins throughout and the coconut cream cheese frosting wasn’t overly sweet. Seeing how large the portion sizes were all evening I was a bit surprised that the dessert was quite a bit smaller. It was just enough to allow us to finish off our espressos, which I guess is really all the dessert I needed anyhow.
From the choices of wines our waiter gave us at the beginning of our meals, we decided to go with an Italian Ruffino Chianti wine. It was medium bodied with fruity and floral notes. Since our meal was very seafood heavy, it worked well for us. I think anything with a bolder finish would have really hindered the flavours of the seafood.
My Picks: Cozze Alla Marinara (Marinara Mussels), Calamari Alla Puttanesca.
Overall: Even right now as I’m typing this blog, I’m craving the mussels that I had at Giuseppe’s and I can’t wait to go back and try some of the other dishes that I saw on the menu that night (gnocchi and risotto anyone?). I know my husband won’t say no either, since he can’t have the ocean he’s always wanted, at least he can enjoy a part of it…in his stomach.
Giuseppe’s Italian Market
1207 1 Street SW