Giuseppe's (New Brighton, MN)
The world is overrun with bad Italian food. Be it bland, inauthentic, salty, greasy, or just plain horrid, no cuisine can go bad so quickly as Italian. We're convinced the problem is one of interpretation, and we know the perfect solution. Head to Joe Cecere's kitchen, a wonderful restaurant called Giuseppe's.
He and his wife Maria are from southern Italy, the source of the tomato-based dishes commonly thought of as Italian food. And he's an excellent cook. We've loved almost everything we've tried here.
The fried mushroom appetizer was juicy, very lightly breaded, and exceptional dipped in the accompanying marinara sauce. Hand-dipped onion rings might not be Italian, but they are the best we've had in far too long, sweet with cooked onion and crunchy with a batter coating. They don't come with marinara sauce, but should.
Actually, you should ask for a cup of that marinara sauce ($1.25 extra) no matter what you order. The breads at Giuseppe's are made every morning in the restaurant: white bread, olive bread, garlic twists, and a surprisingly tasty pepperoni bread. Dip any of these in the marinara sauce; it's simply wonderful.
Dinner entrees all come with your choice of soup or salad. A tasty minestrone is always on the menu, and a second choice varies with the day. We recommend the cream of mushroom. If you prefer a salad, try one of the homemade dressings: Italian, creamy Italian, or blue cheese.
Giuseppe's serves a variety of pasta dishes, from basic to fancy. Their seafood capellini was sharply flavored with mussels and clams. And one of their two baked pasta dishes, piatto di pasta, came with sausage, peppers, meat-filled ravioli, and rigatoni, all in a delicious red sauce.
The ziti alla nina, one of five dishes on the menu named for their grandchildren, was wonderful, with slices of Italian beef, and bell peppers, and a fresh tomato sauce that included chunks of tomatoes and mushrooms, and lots of garlic.
Giuseppe's understands mushrooms. A special on one of our visits was portobello ravioli, rich with dense mushroom flavor.
Other pasta dishes include chicken with Alfredo sauce, lasagna, spaghetti and meatball -- yes, it comes with one gigantic, tender meatball -- and gnocchi. Their lasagna, meatballs, gnocchi, and all sauces are homemade.
Non-pasta entrees, called "Secondi" on the menu, include a side of pasta with marinara sauce. The veal parmigiana, a thin patty of veal breaded and fried and topped with cheese, is a bit salty, but otherwise delicious. They also serve dishes like shrimp scampi, chicken cacciatore, and liver and onions. You're on your own for the last one.
If you have a smaller appetite, or are there for lunch, Giuseppe's has pizza, a variety of smaller pasta dishes, and panini sandwiches. The Italian beef panini was too dry to eat as-is, but was great dipped in the accompanying marinara. The French fries were a disappointment, though.
Desserts are not very interesting, with a too-sweet tiramisu and a homemade cannoli that was tough to cut.
Our complaints are minor, and we recommend this restaurant wholeheartedly. Because sometimes you just want some good Italian food.
1435 Silver Lake Road, New Brighton
Service: Fast and friendly
Sound level: Moderate
Recommended dishes: Onion rings, spaghetti, ziti alla nina, lasagna
Prices: Entrees $10–$13, lunch entrees $6–$8
Children: No special children's menu