It was 1985, and Mark Bogdanos was driving overnight from France to Livorno, Italy. He arrived at his hotel late, and he was hungry. The valet directed him to the local trattoria around the corner, but the kitchen was closing as he arrived. He was kindly invited to eat with the staff, however, and enjoyed a delicious seafood and pasta dish. But when Bogdanos, already the owner of two successful Hoboken restaurants, asked what the dish was called, they said it had no name, and replied only “della caza” – the house dish.
The same dish, as best as Bogdanos has been able to replicate it, appears on the menu at Rosticeria da Gigi, his new restaurant at 916 Washington St. It is one of many items on the menu that tips its hat to tradition, and to, as Bogdanos puts it, his customers.
“We’re cooking here like our grandmas cooked, not to impress people, but just to feed people,” he said. “That has always been my inspiration. They cooked with love and they were happy when you ate.”
“There’s no foie gras on the burger or caviar on the eggs. This isn’t about that. It’s just about good food.” -- Mark Bogdanos
“The idea is that families, whether young or old, aren’t realistically going to cook seven nights a week, but they shouldn’t be forced to decide between an expensive restaurant and fast food,” said Bogdanos. “What we’re doing here goes back way further than delivery or takeout. This is the original fast food.”
On a recent afternoon at Gigi’s, the Reporter was treated to a few choice favorites of Bogdanos that the chef, Luis, was able to whip up quickly. The delicious smattering of quinoa-red peppers, stuffed mushrooms, meatballs marinara, roasted vegetables, and mashed yams was not only an indication of the menu’s depth and diversity, but also its homemade feel.
The meatballs, sweet on the inside with a bit of bite to the sauce, melt in the mouth. The yams were perfectly mashed, the veggies full of flavor, and the mushrooms perfectly spiced. But the peppers, flavored with shiitake mushrooms and topped with Gigi’s housemade mozzarella, were the highlight.
“Everything is fresh, but nothing is really, truly original,” said Bogdanos. “There’s no foie gras on the burger or caviar on the eggs. This isn’t about that. It’s just about good food.”
Other items on the menu
The breakfast menu is less international than the rest of the menu, though a few different veggie-filled frittatas add some flair. There’s also delicious oatmeal with honey, nutella, berries and toasted almonds for the healthy-minded.
The wide variety of specialty roast meat sandwiches dominate the lunch menu, though there are healthy salads as well. Gigi’s version of a BLT – with pancetta and pomodoro cheese – stands out immediately, but the roast pork with apple butter sandwich and the roast beef with caramelized onions also stand out.
The Italian options are the menu’s clear highlights. Both the sweet and hot Italian sausage platters and sandwiches look particularly tasty, and the mixed seafood dishes (including the pasta della caza) are all fresh each day.
Rosticeria da Gigi, 916 Washington Street, is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.rosticeriadagigi.com.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at email@example.com