Germano's Is Two, Two, Two Eateries in One
Germano's is a restaurant with a split personality. On one hand, it's a quaint, intimate trattoria in the heart of Little Italy. On the other, it's a convenient carry-out featuring dishes from a variety of countries. The menus for each are different, the prices are different, and--most telling--the personalities are different. Germano's Trattoria is the quiet, mild-mannered side of the restaurant. Germano's Express, the takeout side, is a bit more knowing and edgy--it boasts a little more by-the-seat-of-its-pants daring. Both the Trattoria and the Express manifest their own individual quirks, and each has its particular advantages and disadvantages.
My friends and I arrived at the Trattoria for lunch on a sunny day, dressed in shorts and T-shirts. Upon entering the modestly sized dining room, we found an elegantly apportioned eatery with small tables set with china, crystal, and bottles of imported bottled water. We suddenly felt somewhat underdressed for the occasion. And we began to worry too--we were enticed to visit Germano's after seeing its takeout menu, which features dishes with prices that average about $7. We quickly learned, however, that there was no need for concern. Yes, the Trattoria's prices were higher than, say, the average sub shop's, but they were quite reasonable for a sit-down Italian restaurant. (Prices listed herein are the Trattoria's lunch prices. Dinner prices are somewhat higher and there is no lunch served on Sunday.)
After ordering lunch, our party sampled the fresh, delicious chiabatta bread that came to our table. Next up were appetizers. We tried the sformato verde ($5.50), a soufflé made with a different vegetable each day. The meatless dish was dense with broccoli and lots of besciamella sauce. It was light in texture, full of flavor, but enormously rich--what seemed like a small serving turned out to be too much of a good thing. We also tried pasta e fagioli ($3.75), the classic Italian bean and pasta soup (Germano's version actually features more pasta than fagioli). In a word, it was belissimo--thick, hearty, and delicious.
Our first entrée was the linguini alla putanesca ($7.95), a veritable feast of flavors and aromas that we found largely satisfying. The dish had too much anchovy for my liking, but it was abundant in savory capers and spicy pepperoncini, which did an excellent job of counteracting the fishy taste.
We also ordered the capellini carretteria ($7.95). A marvelous meatless offering, this dish presents fresh tomatoes, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and Italian herbs over thin capellini pasta that held its own against the sauce. That's an impressive achievement, because the carretteria, though less pungent than the putanesca, was very flavorful thanks to its mouth-watering mixture of fresh vegetables and aromatic spices.
Equally intriguing was the cannelloni di pianza ($7.95), pasta shells stuffed with meat and smothered with a creamy, herb-flecked besciamella sauce. As with the sformato verde appetizer on which we'd stuffed ourselves, the cannelloni were incredibly rich. Two shells were enough to make you want to take a nap.
Contented with our lunchtime feast, we left Germano's Trattoria, but I was still drawn to try the Express. A few days later, a friend and I phoned in a delivery order, and found ourselves highly impressed by the wide selection of ethnic dishes available. After a 45-minute wait (about what we were told on the phone to expect), we settled in for some fine takeout cuisine.
The Express' quarter-chicken rotisseria ($3.95) was accompanied by one of my favorite dishes, a tasty, hot salsa verde. And what a rush it was for our senses--the chargrilled chicken was rubbed with rosemary, which lent the entrée a lovely aroma. The white meat was a wee bit dry, but quite delicious. I also enjoyed a side order of perfectly seasoned beans and rice ($1), featuring freshly grilled bell peppers and onions.
The Italian sub ($5.95) was stuffed with prosciutto, Genoa salami, pepperoncini, and olives, all topped with an Italian dressing. After removing the wilted lettuce, we found that the sub roll was covered with low-grade cuts of meat. Disappointing, to be sure, but the sandwich was still very tasty.
On the whole, I was quite pleased with my adventures in schizophrenia with the Germano's two. Each side presented delicious, usually well-prepared food at reasonable prices. The Trattoria is a wonderful place for traditional, sit-down Italian dining and compares favorably with other Little Italy establishments. Germano's Express is a terrific--and cheap--alternative to the usual takeout pizza or Chinese food joint. Look at your own needs and desires and take your pick. Whatever your choice, you're sure to enjoy the experience.