WHO’S IN CHARGE If you’ve waited — and waited and waited — to eat at the exceedingly popular Giacomo’s Ristorante in the North End, you might think you’re now in luck.
The partnership that runs Giacomo’s (and another in the South End) last month opened a new location in downtown Melrose. It features the same comforting and carefully prepared Italian fare that makes the North End spot such a hit.
But a recent Saturday night in Melrose featured a hectic scrum of would-be diners, lining up outside and at the bar. When a customer was told the wait would likely be “at least an hour,” usually the person simply nodded, and said, “OK, we’ll wait.” Even in the less urban and less hip Melrose, waiting for a table at Giacomo’s can be the thing to do on a Saturday night.
The original Giacomo’s was launched 32 years ago in the North End by Jackie Taglieri; now he and partners Richard Talieri and Joseph Dinnarello operate the other two Giacomos, plus Panza in the North End and Anchovies in the South End. Talieri oversees the Melrose kitchen.
THE LOCALE Imagine eating at a loud and lively family diner, where the conversation flows with the wine, and you’ll get a sense of Giacomo’s in Melrose on a busy night. Located on Main Street, there’s a rear entrance that leads into a full-service bar and small dining area. More tables are placed along the wide hall near the kitchen entrance and there’s a front section that looks out on Main Street.
Like the North End place, the Melrose Giacomo’s does not take reservations. But it does take credit cards. The North End is cash only, as is the South End. But the South End does take reservations. Got it?
The décor is spare, favoring shades of slate gray and dark red, brightened with abstract paintings by local artists. More striking was the calm and courteous demeanor of the wait staff even on a hectic evening.
ON THE MENU The favorites are all here: fried calamari ($8, $11), bruschetta ($9), and a variety of pasta dishes feature fettuccini, penne, gnocchi, and linguini.
An interesting appetizer was the burrata ($11), which had cream-filled fresh mozzarella over tomatoes, drizzled with honey and basil vinaigrette. It was startlingly creamy with a sweet afterglow.
Entrees include chicken or veal marsala ($14 and $16), chicken piccatta ($14), grilled beef tenderloin ($20), and a variety of fish dishes.
We sampled the lobster ravioli ($18), which was rich and creamy but the star — the lobster — barely put in an appearance. The penne chicken and shrimp ($16) was every Italian food lover’s dream: chewy pasta with a rich (but not cloying) pesto cream sauce, dotted with juicy chunks of chicken and fresh shrimp.
The fusilli Siciliana ($15) with onions, plum tomatoes, eggplant, and mozzarella had a nice zing. The eggplant parmigiana ($15) was serviceable but not exactly a standout.
Perhaps the star dish — the one that turns heads when it’s carried through the dining room — is the zuppa di pesce for two ($50), featuring a whole lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, and calamari over linguini, made with your choice of sauce.
Giacomo’s opens for dinner at 4 p.m. daily; even then, people start lining up.
Giacomo’s of Melrose, 454 Main St. 781-620-1191, giacomosblog-boston.blogspot.com .