Pizzeria Ristorante Giovanni
There are a lot of average restaurants in Prague, but Giovanni‘s certainly isn’t one of them. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it was one of the best – perhaps even worth the expense of the flights to get there.
After an hour of trawling the streets desperate to avoid the tourist traps, of which there are many, and dodge the promo teams, of which there are even more, we dipped into an empty looking side road off the Old Town Square and BAM – there it was.
It’s an Italian, so you’re probably thinking pizza, pasta – so what? But Restorante Giovanni is so much more than that. Rustic yet modern, charming not twee, quiet, but not empty and with a distinctly welcoming, relaxed atmosphere.
Perhaps it’s the warm lighting, or just the large glasses of specially imported Montepulciano, but this restaurant offers the perfect amount of indulgence for those fuzzy tingle times.
The menu features an interesting mix of classics alongside inventive newbies. Italian, but without the tired carbonaras and dull mushroom risottos.
The dishes were Italian by name but described in both Czech and English leaving no room for confusion and the maître d’ assured us that many of the ingredients were sourced locally.
For starters we shared a simple garlic bread (OK, not the most adventurous of choices but the perfect comfort food after a long day in the fierce outdoor chill) – beautifully moist, and full-bodied.
For mains my other half ordered a medium steak (he’s boring like that) – thick, juicy and er… Tender (lifelong vegetarians rarely understand these things, I was assured it was “beautiful”) – with seasonal veg cooked to buttery al dente perfection.
As a fussy eater I’m not used to having options, but unusually the vegetarian choice extended beyond mushrooms and, or with, aubergine (that’s egg plant to my American audience). For that alone I would like to give the chef a huge wet kiss.
I went for an asparagus and truffle tortelli – technically a mushroom, but as only a tiny amount is used I was prepared for the challenge and for just £6, who couldn’t?
The tortelli was firm and nutty, the sauce of the perfect consistency, adding moisture to the dish without drowning it. The slight acidity of the tomatoes cut through the richness of the cream and the Parmesan added a hint of fruitiness. Wonderful.
We were feeling naughty, or greedy, or both, and ordered dessert to share – poached pear stuffed with chocolate and hazelnut. What it lacked in presentation it made up for in brilliance – delicately perfumed soft pear contrasted against a robust nutty stuffing, rich but light with a refreshing citrus drizzle. Utter bliss when accompanied by a little more of the gorgeous red wine (compliments of the house).
It was probably the least Italian, Italian, I’ve ever been to. Not because it lacked authenticity, but because the menu was so exciting.
Giovanni’s is a rare food gem that has somehow, thank St Wenceslas, remained untarnished by the hoards of drunken British tourists that have ravaged most of Prague.
The whole meal came to a little over £20, we couldn’t believe it, and, as one of Prague’s least gimmicky restaurants, it’s easy to get a table. Better get booking those flights then.
Rating – 4/5