In the last few years, Antico Pizza owner Giovanni Di Palma has transformed his highly successful pizza joint into his own Italian empire. In addition to Antico, Piazza San Gennaro is now home to Gio’s Chicken Amalfitano, Caffé Gio Gelateria & Pasticceria, Bar Amalfi, and Bottega Luisa. Little did I know when I accepted an invitation to dine at Gio’s this past Monday, that I would actually be experiencing “Little Italia” in its entirety.
I made an uncharacteristic Monday exception to my weekend eats policy for a friend’s birthday dinner. This particular friend also happens to be a friend of Giovanni’s, so it worked out pretty well. We had a beautiful table set up for us in between Bar Amalfi and Bottega Luisa, and Gio cooked us a fabulous meal. The meal started with wine, ended with limoncello, with a lot of delicious food and good company in between.
Our first dish was the grilled prawns that you can find on Bar Amalfi’s menu. These were no ordinary prawns, however. They were without a doubt the largest prawns I have ever seen in my life. They were so large, in fact, that someone at the table actually confused them for lobsters. The simple salt and olive oil preparation really highlighted the delicious and fresh flavor of the seafood. They were cooked to perfection, and served hot off the grill. A+ all around.
Next came the pizzas. There is no question in my mind that Antico has the best pizza in Atlanta, and this meal was no exception. We sampled 1 each of the Margherita D.O.P, the Capricciosa, and the San Gennaro. Everyone always raves about the San Gennaro (which is definitely worth raving about), but my personal favorite is the Margherita. The Margherita D.O.P. is the perfect combination of the freshest San Marzano (plum) tomatoes, bufala mozzarella, basil, and garlic. Also, you can never go wrong with the delicious taste of a wood-fired crust.
The Capricciosa is the way to go if you love prosciutto, which is perfectly paired with artichokes, mushrooms, and bufala, of course. The San Gennaro is definitely a good option if you like a meatier pizza. The spicy sausage-sweet pepper & onion combination is pretty mouthwatering. This pizza was gone before I had time to blink.
In the end, it all comes down to the quality of the ingredients. Antico’s ingredients come straight from Italy, and you really can’t get any better than that.
Approximately three minutes later, the pizzas were gone, and we moved onto chicken. Gio’s chicken, to be more specific. Like the prawns, the chicken was simply prepared, and served hot off the grill. First, we tried the spicy diavola chicken. The chicken was covered in a garlic-peppery rub, and grilled crispy. It was served with a spicy barbeque-like sauce that tasted so much better than anything you can buy in a jar at the store.
The Sorrento lemon chicken was even tastier that its predecessor. The chicken was lightly brushed with a garlicky olive oil and grilled with sliced lemons, fresh from the Amalfi coast. The skin was so crispy and flavorful, I couldn’t get enough of it.
An Italian meal isn’t quite complete without pasta, so it only makes sense that the pasta came next. Gio brought out a giant bowl of his sorrentina maccheroni napoletani, and it disappeared almost as quickly as the pizzas did. He made sure to taste it first, just to ensure that it was perfectly al dente, which of course it was. The pasta was topped with crushed cherry tomatoes, bufala, garlic, basil, and olive oil. At this point, I was pretty convinced that I was actually in Italy. That dream ended at approximately 5 am the next morning when I woke up and realized I actually had to go to work.
Eventually, all good meals have to end, but not before dessert is served! Gio concluded the meal with an assortment of sorbets, presumably from his Caffé Gio gelateria across the street. I couldn’t help but to try a spoonful of every single one: coconut, pineapple, lemon, mango, orange, and chocolate, of course. It’s probably not a surprise that the chocolate was my favorite.
Even after all of that, a birthday is never truly complete without a birthday cake, so we had one of those too.
Everything about this meal in Giovanni’s Little Italia was absolutely perfect – the ambiance, the phenomenal service, the delicious food, and of course, the company. This meal was definitely a weekend eats exception worth making.