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Gusto at Giuseppe

[whitespace] Giuseppe Salciccia
Photograph by Christopher Gardner

Toast of a New Town: Restaurateur Giuseppe Salciccia offers a welcoming smile to guests at his new eatery, Giuseppe Italian Bistro and Lounge.

A popular Campbell restaurateur exports his Italian-accented menu to a Willow Glen neighborhood dining landmark

By Christina Waters

THE RESTAURANT WITH a lively lounge attached has been in Willow Glen for decades, most recently as a dinner house called Goosetown Caffe. With the recent opening of Giuseppe Italian Bistro and Lounge--the latest project of veteran restaurateur Giuseppe Salciccia, who also has a dining room in Campbell--the landmark has found new energy. With a little more updating--some plantings in front to screen the Lincoln Avenue traffic, for example--the wonderful food we enjoyed last week would attract the attention it deserves.

It all started with a terrific bottle of wine. A 1994 Amarone della Valpolicella ($32) arrived in one of those charmingly "crooked" bottles whose slightly curved neck traps any sediment before it reaches the glass. Cassandra and her sweetie, Ray, joined me in a pre-dinner toast from the depths of our huge wraparound booth. Lowering sunlight filled the main room with Mediterranean hues, and Dean Martin was busy with "Amore" in the background.

The opening dishes were so vibrant and attractive that we all bemoaned the texturally challenged bread. "It's a crime for an Italian restaurant not to have good bread," Cassandra pouted. But our sprightly young server almost made up for the lackluster pane. A splendid bouquet of fresh, young lettuces filled my salad plate, topped with bits of curiously (and delightfully) unsweet candied walnuts, bits of tart goat cheese and a few mandarin orange sections. Blood orange slices would have been even nicer, but the Insalata con aranci was terrific anyway ($5.95). Ray and Cassandra were busy addressing their plate of roasted red, orange and yellow peppers ($8.95). I've enjoyed these sensuous peppers at Giuseppe in Campbell and was relieved to find the high standards of that house signature maintained at the new Willow Glen encampment. The Tuscan-toned peppers were irresistibly bathed in garlic, olives, capers and anchovy--a prime Mediterranean seasoning group.

Entrees of filet mignon ($21.95) and an evening special veal chop ($19.95) arrived accompanied by excellent garlic mashed potatoes and a fresh saute of young carrots and green beans. Cassandra's deep, broad bowl of cappellini pescatore ($14.95), topped with sea scallops, huge prawns, mussels and tender calamari, was gorgeous--a tomatoey sunset flecked with fresh parsley and slices of lemon. She complained that there was not enough of the tender angel hair pasta to soak up the seafood juices, but I found every bite satisfying. The bold but not overwhelming glints of tomato, garlic and citrus flattered each bite of quivering, al dente scallop--an unbeatable combination.

Meanwhile, my veal chop--done medium rare--was expertly grilled and topped with a generous crown of sauteed mushrooms. I love the lighter flavor of young beef, and whenever a veal chop shows up on a menu I'm likely to give it a spin. This one was perfect. Nothing trendy or precious--just wonderful flavors, simply presented. Ray's textbook filet mignon was gently smothered in prosciutto and mushrooms, yet it too rang clear with big beefy flavor.

So good was our dinner that we almost didn't realize that the desserts to come would completely seduce us. Even Ray, who swears he knows the best place on the planet for tiramisu, was impressed with the mascarpone-intensive wedge of Giuseppe tiramisu. An order of chocolate frangelico mousse arrived at room temperature--so that the sumptuous flavor could unfurl to full effect. The slice of light mousse, studded with finely ground hazelnuts and gracefully framed in a thin, dark chocolate cookie crust, thrilled diehard chocolate-lover Cassandra. A satiny, barely sweet crema alla panna completed this triple crown of desserts--by themselves an excellent reason to visit the new Giuseppe in Willow Glen. But by no means the only reason.

Giuseppe will appeal to those who like their Italian cuisine prepared with authentic detail as well as with a generous sense of hospitality. A few upscale touches--some landscaping, a more welcoming entryway--will help the ambiance match both the fine cuisine and the prices.

Giuseppe Italian Bistro and Lounge
Address: 1072 Lincoln Ave., San Jose
Phone: 408/292-4866
Hours: Lunch Tue.-Fri. 11:30am-2pm; dinner Tue.-Sun. from 5pm. Closed Mon.
Cuisine: Italian
Entrees: $14-$22

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From the July 22-28, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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