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[whitespace] Giovanni and Linda Rossi Neighborhood Favorites: Giovanni and Linda Rossi do Italian food right at Giovanni's.

Simmering Goodness

Giovanni's is more than a place to dine

By Joe Mangelli

WHEN YOU ENTER Giovanni's Italian Restaurant in Santa Clara, the first thing that greets you is the aroma of freshly simmering tomato sauce. For anyone brought up in an Italian family this one essence rekindles images of love, life and belonging. I'm always that 9-year-old rushing up two flights of stairs to my grandmother's apartment in New Jersey where a meatball or some sauce on a chunk of Italian bread came seconds after a big hug and a kiss.

No one at Giovanni's will kiss you, but the food here is presented with love. While the restaurant itself is not very pretty, really a hastily converted steak house with a few prints of Italy, the milieu is nonetheless welcoming. "Neighborhood people mostly come into my restaurant," notes owner/chef Giovanni Rossi, a native of Naples, "and a lot of Italians." That's generally a good sign.

Giovanni's strong suit is his seafood. One of his most popular dishes is capellini e gamberi ($9.45): angel-hair pasta tossed with large, succulent prawns and green onions. Linguine vongole (clams; $8.75), that simple but essential measure of southern Italian expertise, is excellent, red or white. There is a certain taste of the sea that must permeate any Mediterranean pasta and sea-creature enterprise when done right. Giovanni does it right.

A seasonal special, cioppino, is another fine example of ship-to-shore savoriness. Large heaps of fat crab legs, scallops and prawns are offered in a must-dunk sauce with a side of pasta, dappled with a sea scallop. On the land side of the ledger is a hearty lasagna di manzo (beef; $8.95), which resonates with strong Bolognese flavors and the satisfying snap of mozzarella. An extremely popular dish here is fusilli montara ($8.75), corkscrew pasta sautéed with chicken, artichoke hearts, diced tomatoes and green onions in a white wine sauce.

Giovanni paints with primary colors, and this is reflected in his veal dishes. Vitello alla Marsala ($13.45) consists of tender pieces of veal, sautéed with mushrooms in a traditional Marsala wine sauce, served with fusilli and a snippet of grilled zucchini and red pepper, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic. It is a solid meal, which will allow you to face the flu season undaunted.

Giovanni's is not so much a place to dine, as a place to have dinner. The prices are extremely reasonable for the quality received. Here you will see real families celebrating the end of the week. So, if you want a home-cooked Italian meal and you don't have a Nonna on some second floor somewhere overlooking Newark Bay, Giovanni Rossi is sitting by the window waiting for you. Buon Natale! Giovanni's, 2605 Homestead Road, Santa Clara, 408.260.0296. Closed Mondays.

Last Chance to Prepare for 2000

According to the latest stats, Barbara Streisand tickets for the big bash at the MGM Grand Garden in Vegas are still available, something no one expected. And large venues from Atlantic City to Miami, which heretofore only accepted pre-paid, three- and four-night minimums at $400 and up per night are, well ... not booked. One might score a bargain on the Net with only days left to '00, if one were to shop around.

Even predictions of a dearth of the bubbly might be a bit exaggerated judging by a quick walk through local purveyors of wines. But just in case, the S. Martinelli Company of Watsonville, always one step ahead of the alcoholic competition, has reported ample quantities of its Gold Medal Sparkling Cider, Sparkling Apple-Grape and Apple Cranberry Cider on hand to toast in the big event. Not to worry. In addition, author Elizabeth Knight of NYU has just published Tea With Friends, a book featuring numerous creative ways of celebrating grand events with the brew leaf. She offers, for instance, a St. Nicholas Day Brunch Tea or a Winter Solstice Tea. Take it from there. Raise your cups grandly for 2000. Cheers!

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From the December 23-29, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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