It wasn t long after an anniversary trip to California wine country, where we had some mighty delicious food and wine, that my companion and I dined at Georgio s Caf International.
It was the best meal of the month.
Georgio s is nearing its 22nd year downtown, next to the Valentine Theatre, and it is or should be a destination for anyone seeking to celebrate anything, be it a birthday, a retirement, almost catching a foul ball at a Mud Hens game, or the end of a hard day at the office.
The understated elegance of the restaurant calls for dressing up. The cheerful, efficient staff won t refuse to serve diners in jeans and T-shirts, but such folks may feel a mite out of place.
The original restaurant is long and narrow; an aisle separates a few tables from a long bar, and the room beyond is on two levels, with large mirrors reflecting tiny lights and the gleaming white tablecloths, topped by black coverings and white napkins. Sometime in its existence, Georgio s acquired the next-door space, and that became an area for large parties or spill-over on busy nights.
The stated aim of brothers George (he s the chef) and Chris (the host) Kamilaris is to provide a memorable dining experience, and they do.
The operative word is dining. This is a place that urges one to taste and savor at a leisurely pace, and the Kamilarises offer food that encourages just that.
Soon after we were seated, our server showed up with a basket of bread and a mini-terrine of delicious pate, which negates the need for an appetizer, but we succumbed anyway.
Appetizers include wild mushrooms saut ed in cream and garlic and haloumi cheese, imported from Cyprus. On one visit, we opted for a special: two crab cakes ($10) with a dill champagne sauce. The cakes were lightly saut ed with just a hint of bread crumbs to bind the crab together, and the sauce was so good, we mopped some of it off the plate with bread.
The menu isn t large, just 11 entr es, but they cover the gamut from beef to lamb to veal to chicken and seafood. There s even a vegetarian pasta dish. Entrees range in price from $17 to $30 (the seafood of the day is at market price), and they are augmented by daily specials. There used to be a chalkboard upon which the specials were listed, but I haven t seen it lately. No matter, the genial wait staff is happy to recite the specials and to explain them.
Among those we tried were pork medallions with a cherry-pecan sauce ($26), sole stuffed with crab ($32), sauteed pickerel with a white wine sauce ($26), and veal piccata ($25), saut ed in white wine, with capers, lemon, and garlic. All were served with potatoes and a generous mound of mixed vegetables. A small Greek salad also comes with the meal.
In each case, the entr e was perfectly prepared, and the accompanying sauce a sublime compliment. Topping the list was the cherry-pecan sauce on the pork. It sounds cloying, but the combination of cherries and pork was amazing, and the amount of sauce was just enough to leave me wanting more and trying to figure out how to duplicate it at home.
The crab-stuffed sole was melt-in-your mouth delicious, with the smooth texture of the sole and flakier texture of the crab providing alternate bursts of pleasure.
Too often pickerel is breaded and fried, but Georgio s offers a variety of seafood preparation methods, including pan-fried, sauteed, broiled, grilled or poached. The wine saut we chose allowed us to savor the sweet flesh of the fish. And the lemon sauce of the piccata provided a pleasant counterpoint to the subtle flavor of the veal.
We asked the server to recommend wines to compliment the entr es. We chose from the by-the-glass list, and the recommendations were spot-on.
After all this wonderful food, who needs dessert?
Me, especially when there s cr me brulee ($7.50) on the menu. I would have been willing to bet that Matthew Weston s (the former Matthew s and the current Mustard Seed) cr me brulee was the best in town, but Georgio s gives it a run for its money. The first bite of the creamy smooth custard with its crunchy caramelized sugar topping is sheer bliss, which are words to describe the entire Georgio s experience.
Georgio s is also open for lunch, with salads, soups, and smaller portions of entrees.
Contact Bill of Fare at: firstname.lastname@example.org.