A PAIR OF BROTHERS GIVES AN OLD FAVORITE A NEW LOOK, WITHOUT SACRIFICING ITS LONG, STRONG ISLAND NEIGHBORHOOD CONNECTION
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS BY AMESSÉ PHOTOGRAPHY
When they were still in high school, Frank and Anthony Rapacciuolo started busing tables at a local fine dining restaurant called Giovanni’s.
“We worked there for so many years sort of became vested in it, and the owner became like family to us,” noted Frank Rapacciuolo, who’s better known to his customers as Cheech.
“When the opportunity came for the prior owner, Giovanni, to retire, he wanted the business to stay in the hands of people he trusted.”
So three years ago, the Rapacciuolos joined forces with Chef Alessandro Colizza and took over ownership of the eatery, which is on Richmond Avenue, in the Eltingville section of Staten Island.
“We knew that the three of us combined could really make it work,” Cheech said. “We all bring different skills to the table finance, culinary arts, and managerial abilities so together we make a great team.”
The trio enhanced the menu, focusing on fish, steaks, chops, and Pizza Al Metro a long gourmet pizza that’s served in 14, 18 and 29 inch sizes. Both red and white pies are offered, and popular toppings include mozzarella, Gorgonzola, walnuts, and sliced pears or eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese.
“We are the only brick oven restaurant on Staten Island that serves pizza by the meter,” noted Anthony Rapacciuolo. “This is one of Chef Alessandro’s specialties. But in addition to fine tuning the pies, he also added fresh seafood, rack of lamb, and a variety of steaks all things that weren’t previously offered.”
An emphasis was placed on daily specials, too. Colizza selects a range of varied ingredients each day and experiments with them in several different dishes.
“The majority of our customers visit once or twice A week,” Cheech noted. “And they look for Alessandro’s specials, because he’s always creating something good.”
The owners also revamped the restaurant’s seating arrangement, adding larger tables and a bench to accommodate more guests. This past summer, they changed the layout of their outdoor patio and debuted La Terrazza, a late night al fresco seating area that’s open from May until October.
“If you’re coming home from a movie with your wife on a Friday night, and want to grab a bite to eat, you shouldn’t have to go to the diner,” Anthony said. “At La Terrazza, you can order rack of lamb at midnight or choose from a full menu of small plates. Or you can just sit down and enjoy a nice glass of wine or sangria we’re open until 2 a.m.”
The restaurant has an evolving wine list and features a full menu of specialty cocktails. One favorite, the Nutella Hot Chocolate, is served with a mix of creamy liqueurs like RumChata and amaretto. But even with the late night outdoors option, the focus of Giovanni’s remains family dining. “We have families who come here a few times a week,” Cheech said. “They sit at the very same table, order their usual dinner and dessert. That’s what the whole experience here is about.”
And the food is all about fresh, quality ingredients for such dishes as boneless breast of chicken topped with asparagus, roasted peppers, and mozzarella; spinach fettuccine tossed with chicken and asparagus in a prosecco sauce; and veal scallopini topped with sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts in a wine sauce.
“We have dishes like chicken parm on the menu because they are mandatory on Staten Island,” noted Colizza, a native of Abruzzo, Italy. “But we like to offer those traditional Italian dishes alongside more modern options.”
The pasta is made fresh on site; pappardelle, penne, and gnocchi are just a few of the restaurant’s more popular varieties. And appetizers like oven-baked calamari and baby calzones are roasted in the restaurant’s brick oven.
A three-course brunch is now being served every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $29.95 (add $10 for bottomless mimosas). The brick oven breakfast pizza, topped with eggs, cheese, bacon, and prosciutto is the star of the menu.
“This is still the Giovanni’s that Eltingville residents have loved for years,” Cheech concluded. “We’ve just added a new spin to the menu. It’s still a great, family-friendly restaurant with delicious food and great cocktails.
3800 Richmond Avenue / 718.227.3914 giovannis.ny