With Lexington’s current robust dining scene, those in search of a good meal don’t have to travel far. While that is great news for downtown’s dining hot spots, it can pose a problem for establishments located outside the hallowed loop of New Circle Road. One such establishment is Giuseppe’s, a place I enjoy very much — when I think of going there.
It may be because it is unobtrusively tucked down a quiet lane obscured by trees from the major traffic artery of Nicholasville Road. If you’ve never been there, you have to really look for it. Apparently, a lot of Lexingtonians have found it, as Giuseppe’s has been in business for 20 years, and while it may not be on par with the kind of authentic Italian restaurants found in ethnic neighborhoods in New York and Chicago, it’s always in the running for Lexington’s favorite Italian restaurant.
Regulars go for the ambiance: unstuffy white linen tablecloth service and easy listening music (there’s jazz in the lounge Wednesday through Saturday) and, of course, the food (not cutting edge, but always reliable).
I have to confess that Giuseppe’s doesn’t automatically spring to mind when I’m deciding on a restaurant, despite the fact that on the occasions I’ve been there, I have liked it. I decided it was time for another visit, and three of us recently went to check it out, opting for craft cocktails and appetizers instead of a full meal. We decided that Giuseppe’s does appetizers very well.
We especially liked the Mozzarella Impanata, mozzarella cheese lightly breaded and then fried ($9); the prosciutto and provolone wrapped asparagus spears, perfectly grilled and drizzled with balsamic ($11), and the Funghi Al Forno, a delectable concoction of baked mushroom caps, stuffed with Italian sausage, cream cheese, onions and peppers ($11).
Our consensus favorite, however, was the gnocchi ($9). The plump potato dumplings were appropriately (but not overly) buttery and cheesy, and were served with a choice of either a tomato basil or cream and Fontina cheese sauce.
Appetizer portions are so generous that ordering several will constitute a full meal.
On my second visit, I decided it was time for a full dinner experience. I told my two dining companions about how much I had enjoyed the appetizers, and how the calamari was the only one I didn’t try. They split an order ($9) and proclaimed it delicious. I opted for the Pasta e Fagioli, the traditional northern white bean soup garnished with tomato, basil and garlic. While not as hearty and rib-sticking as some I’ve had in Italy, it was fine for a sultry Southern summer night. The cup ($5) was sufficiently filling, but if you feel you need a bowl, you can get it for $2 extra.
For entrées, there are the requisite number of pasta dishes, ranging from $20 to $29, as well as a pasta of the day. I chose the lasagna ($22) for my main course, although it was a tossup between that and the Scampi Aglio e Olio ($30). Succulent shrimp is tossed with spaghetti, scallions and diced tomatoes in a lemon garlic sauce. Thankfully, one of my dining companions ordered it and let me try it. I will be ordering it on my next visit, and I’ll have to plan another one to try the signature Chicken Parmigiana ($24), lightly breaded and fried and topped with mozzarella and parmigiana cheese and marinara sauce.
While we enjoyed our entrées, we were less impressed with the desserts. We chose two, cannoli and tiramisu (both $6.95). The latter, described as a creamy sweet Mascarpone-filled torte with chocolate, coffee and a hint of Kahlua, didn’t have a hint of coffee, let alone Kahlua.
Service on both occasions was good, and one thing I appreciated was the background — lots of Sinatra and Tony Bennett — played at a level which made conversation possible, and not at the concert arena decibel level found in many restaurants.
So, while Giuseppe’s may not be Del Posto in New York or La Scarola in Chicago, it has found its place among Italian food-loving Lexingtonians who have gone off the beaten path to find it.
Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel and food writer. Reach her at email@example.com.
Address: 4456 Nicholasville Rd.
Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri. Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 5-9 p.m. Sun. Sun. brunch: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards
Other: Reservations recommended. Parking can be an issue, especially if you are dining later.