Sighted from the river of traffic flowing by on Main Street in Williamsville, Giancarlo's might seem like just another Italian restaurant.
Actually, it's a bunch of places, all under one storefront. The website labels it a "Sicilian steakhouse and pizzeria." Open the door and you find a bar on one side of the room, with people watching sports and drinking beer with their chicken wings. On the other side of the room is a lunch counter and coffee bar, with an open cooler of drinks for the lunchtime grab-and-go crowd, desserts under refrigerated glass and lots of Illy coffee swag.
Between the beer bar and coffee bar are three tall bar tables with stools. That's where we were seated, reading the menu and chewing on fresh bread with balsamic and olive oil, as groups of people streamed by to disappear behind the curtains at the back of the room. That larger room, well-equipped with regular tables and chairs, was for private dining, our server informed us.
So that's four different crowds that Giancarlo's is serving from one location. It's an unusually diverse design for a restaurant, opened by Anthony Ragusa and his sister Gabriela, in their father Tony's Walker Center.
The menu offers a brief lineup of soup and salad, wings, fingers, burgers, wraps, sandwiches, pizza and build-your-own pastas. Fried calamari and steak and shrimp skewers over arugula (both $9) are among other appetizers. There are a few "steakhouse sides" too, like asparagus, garlic mashed potatoes and truffle fries (all $5), but the menu is mainly standard family restaurant dishes with a few upscale touches.
Especially steak. The "Sicilian steakhouse" appellation refers primarily to the fact that Giancarlo's serves steaks crusted with cheese and herbs in numerous combinations: Gorgonzola and peppercorn with a brandy glaze, say, or asiago and tomato. The Sicilian treatments will add $3 to steaks that run from an 8-ounce filet ($28) to a 32-ounce bone-in ribeye ($50).
We asked for a small Caesar salad ($5), lobster bisque ($9) and a "Giuseppe" pizza with mushrooms, pepperoni and bacon ($11). Cat asked for a "Beer Burger" with beer-glazed onions, bacon, cheddar and chipotle aioli ($10), while I asked for the 22-ounce ribeye ($32) done Toscano-style ($3 additional), meaning crusted with pecorino and rosemary.
The lobster bisque was memorable, with chunks of lobster meat in a soothing, creamy soup that was hearty without being leaden. It went especially well with the smoky grilled bread accompaniment.
The Caesar salad sported chopped romaine topped with crunchy homemade croutons and a tangy dressing.
The pizza arrived generously bronzed across its surface and a bit wet, with lots of salty, spicy, smoky meat and white mushrooms. The crust was bready in a good way, browned underneath and worth eating by itself.
Cat's burger was messy and worth it, she said. Specifically appreciated were the patty's crust and the heap of sweet onions atop it. The accompanying fries were crispy, not greasy.
My steak arrived covered with a crumbly crust of cheese. Underneath, it was medium rare as requested. I'm not sure I'd order it often, but I sure enjoyed it. The crust offered a bold, enjoyable flavor boost to the tender meat.
For dessert, we asked for a cannoli and lava fudge cake ($4.90) from the refrigerated display next to us. Glad to see the cannolis were filled to order, less glad to see the server walk by with a box of cannoli shells. It took long enough that she politely removed it from our bill. The lava cake was lighter than most, with a suitably oozing core.
While the food was enjoyable, our table detracted from the experience. It left us with a steady stream of private dining customers brushing by our elbows to get to their table behind the curtain, and servers schlepping takeout orders to the front of the room. It might have helped if servers cleared our spent plates before dessert.
At its best, Giancarlo's is good enough to make you wonder what it takes to get a real table.
7 plates (Out of 10)
Sicilian steakhouse offering top menu ?while serving several crowds at bar, ?lunch counter and restaurant.
WHERE: 5110 Main St., ?Williamsville (650-5566, www.giancarlosevents.com)
HOURS: 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
PRICE RANGE: Salads, soups, appetizers $5-$9; pizzas, ?sandwiches, burgers $4-$17; steaks $28-$53.
PARKING: In the lot. WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.email:?firstname.lastname@example.org