Restaurant review: Gianni be good

Gianni Pizzeria 22 Bolshaya Yakimanka Ulitsa, m. Oktyabrskaya/Polyanka, (495) 995 2152, Open daily 10 am to midnight

There's usually something eerie about restaurants buried inside shopping centers. Tucked away at the end of a brightly lit hallway, neighbored by darkened shop windows sheathed behind metal grates, the mall-raunt can seem isolated, like the last loner lingering at the bar at closing time.

Not so with Gianni, a self-proclaimed Italian pizzeria with so much charm and energy (and great street views) that its location inside the sleek Gimenei shopping center is immediately forgettable. If you're a fan of creative Italian food and impeccable service, you'll be pleased with this new spot by Restoranny Sindikat, the group behind Beefbar, Antrekot and other upscale eateries.

Gianni's a little fancier (and pricier) than your average pizza parlor, but the degree of refinement depends on where you sit. Wide couches placed along the massive arched windows offer impressive street views, but the smaller tables on the second floor allow for a more casual, social meal. Either way, the experience is a hit - and the Muscovites (and several Italians) who packed the place on a recent weeknight seemed to agree.

Both the interior and the menu showcase Italian traditions with modern flair. The hardwood floors and marble walls are clean and classic; the food is playful and adventurous. Gianni doesn't have an alcohol license yet, but it's BYOB if you show a receipt.

As its name suggests, the pizzeria offers a selection of the Italian pies, which includes both traditional hits such as pepperoni and four-cheese and creative experiments (including a sweet pizza topped with every child's favorite spread, Nutella). Our slightly sweet pizza topped with house sausage and fennel was a bit lacking on cheese, but crispy and light enough for an appetizer.

We were intrigued by a warm onion tart topped with ice cream made from aged parmesan. Onion? Pie? Ice cream? Actually, a winning combination: The creamy cheese was a warm and savory complement to the flaky homemade crust and caramelized onions.

As expected, pasta features heavily on the menu, in both classical and playful interpretations (sweet almond rigatoni in berry sauce, anyone?). Penne with roasted eggplant came with thick, juicy slices of the vegetable and bright tomato sauce, though it could have used a bit more of a texture contrast. Guinea fowl with truffle was more satisfying: the tender, lightly breaded bird and flaky truffle slices were well-balanced by a hearty helping of risotto and mushrooms.

The star of Gianni's lengthy desert list is its selection of house-made ice cream - and the creativity doesn't stop here, with options including olive oil and tangerine sorbet with pistachios. Salted caramel ice cream was a tasty mixture of salty and sweet, though a gorgonzola flavor with raspberries was too heavy on the cheese flavor for my taste.

Gianni's excellent food is brightened even further by a sparkling degree of customer service. Every server tends to all tables, doing away with the long periods of waiting and neck-craning to find "your" waiter, and silverware and glasses are replaced quickly and discreetly. Between the hearty Italian cuisine and the attentive service, this charming pizzeria easily overcomes its location. tmn Schyot, please!

Pizza with homemade sausage 580R.

Onion tart with ice cream 360R.

Penne with eggplant 490R.

Guinea fowl with truffles 980R.

Salted caramel ice cream (scoop) 120R.

Gorgonzola ice cream (scoop) 120R.

Alcohol-free mojito 250R.

Passion fruit lemonade 450R. Read other articles of the print issue "The Moscow News #47"

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