A small, intimate restaurant with dim lighting, this new eatery has the look and feel of a small country town in Italy. The owner, Francesco Panucci, grew up in a quaint place like this on the west coast of Calabria, called Spilinga. Some of the most robust and unique flavors come from small towns like this, where the food is often the kind you grow up on.
"You can say I have been working on this menu for the past ten years. Growing up in Italy, and then here in the US in a very strict Italian environment, I was always exposed to true Italian cuisine, so my initial throught was to bring some of that authentic cuisine here to Rumson," Francesco explained.
"My menu is composed mainly of dishes that I grew up on ... ideas I got from my family, friends and places I traveled throughout the Italian countryside. But the root of it all is the influence I got from my mom, Giorgia, and where I grew up back home."
Francesco already knew the area well, and chose the location of the restaurant very carefully. He wanted to find a place with a "neighborhood" feel, to coordinate with the initial concept he was bringing to the restaurant.
He wanted nothing more than to bring that feeling of "home" to his guests to improve their dining experience, and that he did, with the cozy setup of Ristorante Giorgia. With limited tables, it feels as if you have just come home and you are going to enjoy the comfort of your favorite home cooking, providing an intimate dining experience for all.
"I always wanted to open my own restaurant," Francesco shared. "I have been involved in other ventures with partners in the past, but the ultimate goal was always to have my own, where I could implement my own ideas and bring a little of my Italy here."
When asked what was his favorite dish, he explained that it is hard to pick, as he appreciates all of his dishes in their own way. "I guess if you asked me what I'm in the mood for today, I would start with some Mussels, followed by a first course of Bucatini Amatrici (which is one of the top two sauces I enjoy the most), and the Caciucco as my third course (a wonderful seafood stew)," Francesco said.
Everything on the menu is arguably popular, but the owner has cited the Tagliatelle with shrimp and wild mushrooms, and the Penne with nduja are considerably two favorite pasta dishes. If you like calamari, try the Calamaretti alla Sorrentina (it's NOT fried!)
Ristorante Giorgia boasts a small variety of seasonal specials as well, which change and vary according to, naturally, what is in season.
When I visited the new restaurant, I went with a friend and we decided to split two appetizers and one entree to get a feel for the overall menu. We shared the Antipasto Calabrese with Prosciutto di Parma, capicollo, mortadella, pecorino, provolone, giadiniera and roasted peppers, and the Insalata di rucola con pere, grana e noci, an arugula salad with pears, walnuts, Grana Padano and balsamic vinaigrette. Both of these starters went well with the fresh bread and oil for the table, as well as the Gnocchi di spinachi con salsa di taleggio, homemade spinach gnocchi with a light cream sauce, scallions, white pepper and taleggio cheese. The taste was so fresh, you could actaully taste the spinach in the gnocchi -- it was fabulous!
My experience at Ristorante Giorgia was exactly how Francesco wanted to present it -- top notch service in a small, cozy, "at home" restaurant, where you feel you are going to "Nonna's" house as opposed to a fine dining restaurant. Everything is made to order. There's nothing better than that. I will definitely go back, and I suggest you try something new if you haven't been there already. If you are familiar with Rumson, it is right across the street from David Burke's Fromagerie, and you can smell the garlic from down the street!
To make a reservation, call (732) 741-3880.