When you want a good Italian lunch at a fair price, you go to Gianni's.
This place is always packed at lunch; get here at 1pm and you may not get a parking spot. I got here at 2pm and there were spots in the rear. There's a lot of spots behind the restaurant.
Even at 2:10, the hostess had to look around to find me a table. I got one in the rear. Garlic rolls were already on the table.
The place was packed to the brim and I didn't want to take pictures of possible gangsters with their girlfriends. This was taken a bit later in the experience once the place had thinned out.
It took my server a while to come over to take my iced tea order. Then it took her a while to come to the table with the tea; "You asked for extra lemon, didn't you?". Then it took her a while to bring the lemon. I waited 7 minutes for the tea, and then another 5 for the extra lemon.
Gianni Ice Tea
Note that I didn't get a carafe this time; on my last visit I got a whole carafe of iced tea so there was no waiting for refills. I noticed some tables had carafes; my guess is that they don't give the carafe if only 1 person at the table is drinking iced tea.
Finally I ordered Chicken Francese, which comes with a salad and side pasta. I didn't like the "Italian" dressing the last time, but they didn't have an alternative that I wanted, so I took the salad the way it comes by default.
Another 6 minute wait for the salad.
The salad was bigger the last time; another salad served on a flat plate. Remember when salad came in bowls? I wasn't sure what the brown stuff on top was; I thought it might be balsamic marinated onions and I generally don't care for balsamic. But I liked everything about this salad. The dressing wasn't as sweet as it was on my last visit, and the blue cheese goes well with tangy Italian dressing.
I polished off the salad and I was so bored waiting that I had a bit of the garlic rolls. Nice and soft, dripping with butter. Damn this diet. My tea was empty by now. Andrea BOcelli's "Mascagni" filled the air. A large Italian dude at the next table marveled at the music. The room is very noisy; you can forget about using Shazam.
The chicken came out 17 minutes after the salad. By now its 2:43pm.
Gianni's Chicken Francese
The chicken looked well made, but the sauce looked gloopy; the way it gets when it cools off. As suspected, the chicken was luke warm; it had been sitting around for quite a while in the kitchen. It needed salt and I added some lemon juice. This would have been excellent if it was hot. Angel hair pasta this time; the sauce is good, although the grated cheese on the table isn't as fresh as freshly grated.
I ask for the check; more waiting. It's 3:05 before I'm out the door.
Gianni's is a popular spot because they deliver good food including a salad for a fair price. Service today was unacceptably slow. It wasn't that crowded at 2:30 so I don't see why it took me almost an hour for a 2 course lunch.
Gianni's Pompano Beach
Someone once asked me why Gianni's is always so packed at lunch time. I wasn't able to tell him at the time; but now I can answer the question.
I'd walked into Gianni's once before, only to walk right out. It was packed with "older" folks, much like places are during the early birdjump--> specials. I wasn't in the mood at the time; I tend to eat late to avoid the crowds, whether it be lunch or dinner. Today I got here at 2:15. The dining room was half full. I was seated in the middle of the room and given a menu. There was some confusion of which server I had, so it was a little while before anyone came over. Once it was sorted out, I ordered Iced Tea and Eggplant Parmesan. The lunch entrees come with a salad with crumbled blue cheese and a house Italian dressing.
The place is a big room with a partition creating another section in the back. They have a couple of TVs, but they were off, and there was no music playing. The place is loud; a lot of tables of 4; and the people here are the type that talk through lunch rather than text on their cell phones.
Stuff started arriving quickly. The iced tea service includes a carafe for refills, which is convenient.
Gianni's Ice Tea
I also got some garlic rolls, with just enough garlic sitting in a puddle of butter.
Gianni's Garlic Rolls
I'm low carbing it, but I tasted the rolls and they were soft with a slightly crunchy crust and the garlic wasn't overdone. The salad came a minute later.
Now this is a pretty big salad as side salads go. The tomato was a bad wedge, but there was a ton of blue cheese and a lot of greens. This is as much food as I got for $11 at the Capital Grille the day before. The dressing was a little too sweet; I prefer a straight up blue cheese. But this was fine.
My server, who was flying around the room but didn't miss a chance to see if I had everything I needed, brought over the eggplant just after I finished the salad.
Gianni's Eggplant Parmesan
The sauce looked a bit too orange, but it wasn't bad. A mild tomato basil, it worked well with the eggplant, which were thinly sliced and not breaded. I was expecting a big breaded "cutlet", but this was quite good. This dish was deftly done. It comes with a side of spaghetti, which was better than the usual throw-in side. If I was eating pasta I would have enjoyed it.
Gianni's Side of Spaghetti
There's a container of grated cheese on the table and a bottle of olive oil. They don't scrimp on the experience.
The bill for all of this? $14.
So now I can answer the question "why is this place always packed?". It's really quite simple; good service, better than average food and one of the best values in town. You don't walk out of the place feeling like you've been given too little food for too high a price. While most of the other restaurants in this town are trying to figure out ways to get you to pay $12 for a burger or a salad; Gianni's does it the way it used to be; the whole multi-course experience at a fair price.