Givanni’s is a gem in the Iowa City food scene that has until now totally escaped my notice. Not any more. This restaurant is owned by Jim Mondanaro who also owns Iowa City’s Bread Garden Market, Mondo’s Saloon, and Joseph’s and Coralville’s Mondo’s Sports Cafe. Denizens of Des Moines may recall that Mondo’s and Joseph’s both made a foray into the West Des Moines restaurant scene years ago, first with Mondos and next with Josephs at the same location. It wasn’t for lack of me spending money at either location that they closed, however. It is simply hard for non-chain restaurants to compete for lemming dollars in West Des Moines.
Our fairly large party ordered a number of different pasta dishes. I’d include photos, but the place was bathed with red neon light and my camera was absolutely unequal to the task of taking flashless photos in red light (and for the sake of everyone’s dining experience I don’t like taking flash photos in a dark restaurant). The website has very clear photos of some of the dishes below.
Beef Tips. Beef Tenderloin Tips with roasted peppers, mushrooms, caramelized onions, spinach, blue cheese, balsamic cream sauce and radiatori. The beef was excellent and the savory balsamic cream sauce was fantastic.
Naked Noodles. This was Cappellini in Marinara Sauce. A true test of a restaurant’s ability to make good Italian pasta is to order naked noodles with the basic sauce. The pasta was reportedly excellent and freshly hand made. The tomato base sauce was very well made as well.
Beef Tips Pasta. The beef tips were cooked just right and were not made out of cheap meat, which is good. The dish had a bit of cheese and the savory sauce was really good.
Pasta Caprese. The Pasta Caprese was a deliciously dense spinach linguine was topped with tender artichoke hearts, and a lovely, fresh combination of tomatoes, fresh spinach, feta cheese and mushrooms, finished with a tangy lemon garlic sauce.
Spinach Ravioli with Shrimp. I ordered the Spinach Ravioli with Shrimp. The hand made pasta was great, but it was the lemon dill cream sauce that transported me to food nirvana. Unless you have a problem with pasta, shrimp, spinach, lemons, dill or cream, I recommend that you beat a path to the Givanni’s and take in this dish if it is the last thing you ever do. For some of you, this may the closest to heaven that you will ever get.Service was very good and the waiter was one of those “man of few words” types who only seems to move slowly if you watch, but somehow gets everything thing done in half the time and with half the effort — my favorite kind.
Not everything will be perfect anyplace. In a followup visit one of us didn’t really like the roasted beet salad. It was lacking enough dressing to get the salad out of the “bunch of dry greens” category.
The ambiance and interior design was also very interesting. The interior of this west end Pedestrian Mall storefront had been totally gutted at some point and refinished with a modernist design with a lot of neon and white plaster work on the second floor. It conveys a very clean and sophisticated look. One of my fellow diners commented that it transported him to the ’60s. Well, I can remember the ’60s and it was not quite that clean-lined and sophisticated. Anyway, the main floor featured a full bar and a more traditional layout. I am not certain how they get the food to the second floor, but they must employ a dumbwaiter. I will be coming back to Givanni’s in the future.