fireplace inside Giannotti's Italian Kitchen

Note: Giannotti’s Italian Kitchen is now closed. The restaurant’s former location became a doctor’s office in 2017.

While crisscrossing the county looking for great food, it’s inevitable that I will end up at a place from my childhood every now and then.

Growing up in the Robesonia area, there were not a lot of options to choose from, unless you wanted Italian. Then you had two choices: Tony’s Family Restaurant on the west side of town or Giannotti’s Family Restaurant on the east side.

Recently, Julie and I paid my grandmother a visit and offered to take her out for dinner. We headed east to Giannotti’s.

It’s been more than a decade since Julie and I last visited Giannotti’s in Robesonia. We’ve changed a lot since then, and so has the restaurant, rebranding itself last year from Giannotti’s Family Restaurant to Giannotti’s Italian Kitchen.

The building also received a major facelift. The bar used to be hidden in the back of the building. Now it’s right inside the front door (and looks great). The dining room felt more intimate with softer lighting and a faux fireplace in the center of the room.

Our server brought down the mood right away. Introducing herself before adding, “I guess I’ll be serving you.”

Still, I was excited about our meal at the new Italian Kitchen. With a family restaurant, you expected pizza, sandwiches and some pasta. But with an Italian Kitchen, I expected some truly inspired dishes from the Old World.

Seeing the new menu was another let-down. It’s still mostly sandwiches and pizza, though now they are pizzabellas, with an upcharge to make them “family size.”

Instead of offering unique pasta selections, everything is now build-your-own — choose one of four pastas, four toppings and five sauces (over 100 combinations, the menu proclaims).

lamb shank over risotto from Giannotti's Italian Kitchen

There are also seven additional entrees, including chicken marsala, stuffed sirloin, and my choice, risotto with broccoli and lamb shank in Béarnaise sauce.

If I’ve learned one thing from watching Guy’s Grocery Games, it’s that you can’t make great risotto in less than 30 minutes. Mine arrived in 20.

The lamb looked great, and was very good. Béarnaise would not have been my first choice to go with lamb, but it worked. Because it was just drizzled on top of the shank, it never had time to marinate with the meat so only the first few bites had any sauce at all. Still, the meat was tender and cooked well so I enjoyed it.

As I had feared, the risotto was a little off. I don’t know if it was cooked too long or not long enough (my guess), but some of the rice was a little hard, making it chewy and less enjoyable the longer I ate.

Our waitress, who seemed a little off herself, had tried to talk me into an additional side, but I was glad that I passed because there was more than enough food on my plate (I finished it, but I could have stopped much sooner and still left full).

chicken parmesan from Giannotti's Italian Kitchen

Julie went with an entree as well, the chicken parm. Unlike my dish, which included three components, the chicken parm is served with no sides. It was an additional charge for a side of pasta, but she got it.

It was a good thing, too. The chicken parm was fine, but wasn’t anything special. The pasta (linguine was her choice) was good with a light red sauce and diced tomatoes.

lasagna from Giannotti's Italian Kitchen

My grandmother’s lasagna was good, and just the right amount of food for her (again, our waitress had tried to talk her into adding a side, which, incidentally, are not listed anywhere on the menu).

salad with a cup of ranch dressing from Giannotti's Italian Kitchen

All of our meals did come with house salads. Though I have to say, I miss the salad bar that used to be in the dining room.

I will give them credit for their prices because even with my $21 entree —  the most expensive on the menu — our final total was only around $55 (that also included a mixed drink and an iced tea).

While the meal wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I was hoping for. Our server was less than enthusiastic about her job (though the hostess and other servers seemed great).  The food was good, but nothing wowed me like I was hoping.

The next time I revisit my childhood, I think I’ll order a pizza.

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