To Italian food lovers, it seems there is nothing more palatable than the idea of local Mediterranean food. The Hudson Valley, is lucky to have such a restaurant as Gigi since 2001 which offers a seasonally changing Italian menu using primarily local ingredients.
Located in Rhinebeck, New York, Gigi scores high on Zagat with an overall rating of 24. The ambiance is classy yet informal, the food is fresh and appealing, and the menu has many choices for all kinds of diners. For example, I often visit Gigi with my boyfriend, who is a meat and potato lover while I tend to look for vegetables and salads, fish and chicken. Gigi satisfies both of us whole-heartedly.
A staple food of our night is the Skizza, which is a flatbread pizza light enough to be eaten after salad and before the entrée. The Margherita (tomato sauce, basil, oregano and mozzarella) is our favorite and is always offered on the menu. Depending on the season, there are other varieties of Skizza available, such as the Bianca-made with goat cheese, mozzarella, fig-rosemary preserve, pear, arugula, and white truffle oil. On any given night, there are usually about five or six kinds of Skizza to choose from, including that day’s special.
For people who love antipasti, Gigi has quite a few creations, including seasonal variations of crispy calamari, a daily cheese plate, and assorted imported salami. As a salad lover though, I always find myself compelled to get some insalate dishes like Barbina (baby greens, beets, butternut squash, mushrooms, goat cheese, toasted walnuts and vinaigrette), Cesarina (Gigi’s version of the classic Cesar salad), or the basic Stagione (baby greens drizzled with Gigi’s sherry-shallot vinaigrette).
In real Italian tradition, Gigi considers pasta dishes a first course. Guests can order pasta as a main dish too, as they have the option of ordering a half or full portion. The Penne Arrabbiata is delicious – spicy enough to have some kick but not as to overpower the dish. Like much of the menu, the pasta dishes vary. There is always some kind of gnocchi, like lamb with pumpkin and sage. There are also one or two whole-wheat options, such as Pasta Integrale (whole wheat fettucine with roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, and almonds).
For the main course, many kinds of chicken, fish, and red meat are on offer. Usually there is also a nightly fish and meat special. The pan roasted organic salmon, served with various garnishes, is delicious, though I tend to like fish that tastes more meaty. Just remember though, since Gigi’s menu is created in the spirit of the Mediterranean, fish like trout and branzino come skin-on, so if you’re like me and try to avoid fish skin, just make sure to ask your server.
Gigi has two steaks that are always on the menu, both rib-eye cuts. The 14 oz Bistecca and the 32 oz Scarpetta, which is meant to serve two. The steaks are served alongside Gigi’s glorious Tuscan fries made with rosemary and garlic. You don’t need to order steak in order to sample these fries. They are available as a side dish, along with other delicious side menu items.
My absolute favorite dish is the Fiaschetto – braised giant white beans stewed with rosemary, sage, parmesan, and extra virgin olive oil. I can (or always want to) eat the entire serving, which arrives in a cute little pewter pot.
The dessert is also exquisite, though I never see the same selections whenever I dine at Gigi. I have heard great sentiments about the Tiramisu di Gigi, although I haven’t been able to try it yet. The same can be said for their wines and cocktails (as I am not yet 21), but they always look great. The wine list is extensive, categorized by the regions of Greece, Spain, Southern Italy, Northern Italy, and Southern France.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, Gigi’s owner Laura Pensiero has a few other places within her Hudson Valley Mediterranean group. There is the Gigi Market in Red Hook, a farmer’s market and café placed on a working farm, and of course Gigi Catering if you want to share these delicious foods at a larger gathering.
6422 Montgomery Street
Rhinebeck, NY 12572
Written by Stephanie – Photo Courtesy of Gigi