Italian restaurants like Gino’s Italian Restaurant in Meridian have it tough. Since most people can cook spaghetti and meatballs or a frozen pan of Stouffer’s Lasagna, they assume Italian food is easy to cook. It is not, though; real Italian cooking is difficult to do right. Gino’s does it right, however, with the flavor spot on and the portions generous. Open for lunch and dinner, they offer many options for a delicious Italian meal.
Gino’s has a full bar with a nice selection of wines also. A nice starter to a meal is either a Campari and Soda or a Negroni Cocktail. Both tend to whet the appetite and get you ready for the delights that are to come. The bar itself is a pleasant place to enjoy a drink and also is a good place to wait for one of Gino’s tables. Italian wines also are featured and complement the Southern Italian dishes nicely.
One of the best ways to start a meal at Gino’s is the Cold Antipasto Platter. With a nice selection of tomato bruschetta, meats and cheeses, this is a good way to build an appetite. Make sure you try the cantaloupe wrapped in proscuitto, this is a very flavorful combination of salty and sweet tastes. Their Minestrone Soup is also a great meal starter, chock full of good bits of pasta, potatoes and veggies in a delicate tomato broth. Fresh Parmesan cheese can be grated on the soup and adds a nice salty touch to it.
Gino’s has a full dinner menu with a smaller lunch menu with less items and some intersting sandwiches as well as pizza. For dinner, the selections are abundant. On one visit, Veal Parmaigana was the perfect choice. The tender veal—-a nice slice of real veal, not that stuff many places serve with is more like a cube steak—was breaded and fried to a crisp outside and tender inside. The marinara and cheeses were nice, complementing and not overpowering the taste of the veal. A choice of pasta came with it, the tortellini being a good choice with the veal. This was an great example of what this dish was all about. Another of my dining companions got the Chicken Parmigiana which was also delcious.
Another dish at our table was the Veal Picatta. Unlike many versions of thinly sliced veal, this was a nice piece, really a few small filets, seasoned with a superb wine, butter and lemon sauce with a few capers adding a nice contrast. The brightness of the lemon was great to wake up the taste buds. Gino’s knows how to change the recipes in the right way, for this Veal Piccata was a winner.
For a change of pace, one of my guests ordered the Special of the Day, the Butternut Squash Ravioli. These pillows of goodness were very flavorful, with a light sauce finishing them off and allowing the subtle taste of the squash to shine throuh. This dish would put a smile on the face of any vegetarian you brought. Of course, Gino’s Italian Restaurant in Meridian offers a full list of pasta and gnocchi dishes, steak entrees and baked specialties such as lasagna. Fresh fish is brought in daily for special dishes.
At lunch, the menu is kept short and simple. An Eggplant Parmigiana Sandwich was a great choice, the distinctive flavor of the eggplant coming through and cooked just to the point of a slight chewiness, yielding a perfect texture. The sandwich was huge, tasty and made for a perfect mid-day meal. It was so filling I could only eat half, but it reheated later in the day with the same perfect flavors and really allowed a chance to savor the different elements and textures of the sandwich.
The Calzone was also a great lunch choice. Cooked in Gino’s wood-fired brick pizza oven, it had a nice crust, with a little char adding to the flavor of the nice crispy dough. Inside, the melted cheese and tasty sausage went together nicely as part of a choose your own Calzone. The marinara on the side as a dipping sauce was well-seasoned and very good. The calzones, as well as the brick oven pizzas, can either be ordered as a menu choice with many different types or else as a choose your oen version.
One thing you must be careful to do is to save room for dessert. The Cannoli are made fresh to order and are simply wonderful. The crisp shell is stuffed with a mixture or creamy cheese, orange zest, Italian liqueur and shaved chocolate. You will really regret it if you don’t have at least a bite of this amazing dessert.
Gino’s Italian Restaurant in Meridian has a good location, with the mall that it is located in having plenty of parking.Originally on 8th Street in Downtown Boise, Gino’s moved to Meridian eight years ago. This isn’t a standard mall restaurant location though; the restaurant is on a corner, with wide open windows affording a nice view on one side of the patio that is perfect for spring or fall dining and on the other side, a nice grassy area giving a very open, comfortable view. Servers are very knowlegeable, friendly and helpful. If you’re lucky, one of the owners, Gino or Tia might even stop by and say hello. Gino learned his cooking in Napoli and his wife, Boise native Tia, brought him back here to live. This is as authentic and delicious as Italian cooking can be.
Gino’s Italian Restaurant in Meridian
3015 W. McMillan Road, #108
Meridian, ID 83646
Phone: (208) 887-7710
Photo gallery follows. All photos by Ed Simon for The Boise Beat.