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THE EATBEAT: Giuseppe's fills niche as Italian restaurant in downtown

We went on a recent Friday evening -- without a reservation -- to Giuseppe's downtown on DeMers Avenue, just across from the Empire Arts Center. I was with Grandson Jack (GJ), and we were seated immediately at one of the three tables still empty.

We went on a recent Friday evening -- without a reservation -- to Giuseppe's downtown on DeMers Avenue, just across from the Empire Arts Center. I was with Grandson Jack (GJ), and we were seated immediately at one of the three tables still empty.

Giuseppe's is a small restaurant and specializes in Italian food. I like the fact that the restaurant sticks to what it does best and specializes in Italian fare and pizza. As we settled into our study of the menu, we considered the seafood section. We passed on dishes such as spaghetti with mussels and shrimp parmigiana. We looked at the entrees with veal and chicken. Then, we ordered classical Italian meals -- GJ chose spaghetti and meatballs parmigiana ($11), and I asked for tortellini alfredo ($14).

We had time to look around and assess our surroundings. There was lively Italian music and Italian art in a place that was for years the office of E.J. Lander Co. The 12 tables in the restaurant have white cloths under glass. There are small candleholders on each table, which to me add to the setting for an Italian meal. Our server was busy but had time to give us enough attention. I liked the pace of serving -- not rushed.

Our meals included a salad, which was served first along with a small loaf of freshly baked white bread. There was oil for dipping the bread as well as a small bowl with a slice of real butter. The salad was realistic with an interesting blend of greens. It was small but adequate. Our main-dish servings were very large. We enjoyed the spaghetti and tortellini. I especially liked the gentle flavoring of the white sauce. I ended up asking for a box to take half of it home.

Signature dishes include Shrimp Fra Viavolo, featuring five jumbo shrimp seared and cooked in marinara and served over spaghetti ($17), and five-cheese ravioli ($11). Also on the signature list is Penne A la Vodka with a creamy vodka sauce, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Sicilian sausage and peppers and spinach ravioli round out the specialties.

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The chef and owner of the restaurant is Joey Miranda. He grew up in an Italian section of New York City, where his parents had a restaurant. His father had come from Sicily, and the restaurant specialized in that cuisine. Miranda said as a child, he and his brothers and sisters had to work in the restaurant. He said he hated it.

He served in the U.S. Air Force and ended up at Grand Forks Air Base, where he was a mechanic. After eight years at base, he was discharged in March 1999. As fate would have it, he married his wife, Joan, here. And he has become an enthusiastic resident of Grand Forks. He enjoys running his own restaurant and likes being part of the downtown scene.

Although his approach has been low-key, he also features a full pizza menu and is proud of the pies he turns out in his brick oven. They are huge -- 18 inches -- and have a New York-style crust. He said that is thin with little "poofs" in the crust. Along with pizza, he turns out calzones and garlic knots.

Miranda said he hopes to enter his pizza in the citywide contest that has been held here for the past few years. He also is revamping his menu to keep new things appearing. He does not want his menu to be too predictable and tiresome.

To promote Giuseppe's, he keeps menus and news items online at www.GiuseppesIn GrandForks.com.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or call (701) 772-1055.

Related Topics: FOOD
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