DesBrisay Dines

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Lunch at Giovanni’s is an old-school escape where hospitality is everything (and the gnocchi is perfect)

Polenta with sausage. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.
Polenta with house-made sausage. Photo by Anne DesBrisay.

By Anne DesBrisay

Consistency can be a beautiful thing. Giovanni’s Ristorante on Preston Street does consistency very well. This is not a restaurant for the bar bites generation. Giovanni’s is old school — service matters, hospitality is everything, and the food seeks to nourish and please rather than dazzle. And despite a glam and glitzy makeover, it still feels homey.

“Hello ladies. Is it still snowing? My goodness, you must be cold. Let me take your coat. I have a nice table ready for you.”


Our chairs are pulled out for us, linen napkins are placed on laps, the water boy arrives in his server’s assistant uniform. He delivers warm bread and butter balls. Our server in trad waiter garb arrives to recite the specials (“we have a lovely this and a really nice that…”)

Photo by Anne DesBrisay
Photo by Anne DesBrisay

I order one of the featured dishes — polenta with house made sausage; my friend orders gnocchi. The special comes with soup or salad. I opt for soup and ask for an extra spoon. Two bowls are delivered. “I didn’t want you ladies fighting, so I had the kitchen split the order.” In front of us are two brimming bowls. The soup is simple — tomato, beef, and vegetable — rustic, gently seasoned. The sausages are loosely packed, heady of fennel and gentle on the salt, while the polenta is downy soft and marvellously rich. Giovanni’s gnocchi are as Giovanni’s gnocchi have always been — textbook perfect, in a rich tomato sauce with fresh basil and gooey globs of buffalo mozzarella. Portions are hefty. You leave here fed and full and feeling warm all over.

Gnocchi, $19.95. Sausage special with soup or salad, $18.95.

Giovanni’s, 362 Preston Street, 613-234-3156