Sunday, March 19, 2017

Food orgy at Osteria da Gino in Nagold...

A week ago, I wrote a review of Alte Post, a very nice restaurant in Nagold.  Our evening at Alte Post was sublime... and also very expensive.  Last night, while dining at Nagold's Osteria da Gino, I couldn't help but compare our two Saturday night culinary experiences.  The five course meal we had at Alte Post was clearly prepared by a classically trained chef and presented with much fanfare.  The mood at Alte Post was almost reverent, with people speaking in low voices and taking pains not to disturb others.

By contrast, last night's meal at Osteria da Gino's was more like a very enthusiastic culinary orgy.  The noise level in the dining room was positively boisterous.  And while what we were eating was definitely amazing, I had more of a sense that it was prepared by a very talented family member who really knows how to cook.  It felt more like a very happy dinner party than a religious experience.

We've been to Gino's restaurant several times now, so it almost does feel like we're visiting family when we stop in for a meal.  Our decision to eat there last night was spur of the moment; and indeed, it was a very good thing Bill called for 7:00 reservations.  The whole place was booked.  But then, Gino has a very small dining room and, more often than not, when we eat inside, we share a table with another couple.  Such was the case last night when after our appetizers, a very pleasant German couple sat down with us and shared in the culinary orgasms.  Pretty soon, the weather will be better and Gino will set up outdoor seating.  The food will be just as good, but the mood will be somewhat different and slightly more private.


Bill prepares for a wonderful meal.  

In other reviews I've written about Gino's restaurant, I have mentioned that eating there is a different kind of experience.  Although he has a menu posted on the wall, it's kind of illegible.  Not once has Gino ever brought us a printed menu.  Instead, he sort of takes the wheel and just starts bringing out food.  It was a little scary the first time we experienced Gino's hospitality, but now that we've grown accustomed to it, we've found that it's really best to let Gino handle everything.  If there's something you absolutely don't like, don't be afraid to tell Gino ahead of time.  For example, he knows I don't do fungus.  Bill, on the other hand, loves mushrooms and truffles.  So Bill might get something with mushrooms or truffles, while I'll have something else.


A lovely primitivo we drank last night.  This was the first time we've ever gotten a bottle of wine at Gino's.  Usually, he brings us wines by the glass or in small carafes, which adds to the mystery.  I liked knowing what we were drinking last night, because this was a very nice wine and I'd buy it again.

Gino is usually at the door to greet us when we go to his restaurant, but last night, we didn't see him until we were well into our meals.  I was glad to see him because he has a way of lighting up a room. He's a very friendly and affectionate guy...  speaks no English, but is so gregarious that it's easy to talk to him despite the language barrier.  Even though we didn't see Gino right away, we were well taken care of by the usual staff.  They started us off with four delightful antipasti dishes.


Chilled tuna with creamy caper sauce.  I always smile when I see this, because it's always delicious!


Caprese...  chilled mozzarella with fresh tomatoes, peppers, salami, and blood oranges.  I usually don't eat cold cheese, but this was delightful.


Octopus, served warm with super fresh lemon...  


Grilled vegetables...  eggplant, zucchini, artichoke hearts, peppers, and tomatoes...

You'd think so many starters would be filling, but these dishes were simply prepared and not too much.  I still had plenty of room for the next course... pasta!


This was the first time I'd had this particular dish, which consisted of delicious rigatoni with basil pesto and a very generous dollop of creamy cheese.  This dish was also very liberally seasoned with roasted garlic, which was absolutely insane.  The German couple sitting next to us were obviously enjoying my facial reaction, which must of been one of pure joy.  I can't be certain it was, but that pasta tasted homemade.  The lady sitting next to me had the same pasta, but with a very light tomato sauce.

Next came the meat course.  I happened to notice Gino's expeditor bringing out the fish for a large table.  He caught my eye and very flirtatiously kissed his fingers, as if to promise me the fish was outstanding.  I love fish, and when I eat with Gino, I usually order the fish over the meat.  So that's what Bill and I both did... 


We both enjoyed the Skrei-- a mild white fish from Norway.  Gino paired it with a creamy sauce and plenty of roasted garlic...


And the expeditor also brought out mashed potatoes and broccoli.  I could barely sample the sides and we did not come close to finishing them.  The fish was outstanding, though.  It was very fresh.  We noticed the couple sitting behind Bill shared what looked like an enormous t-bone steak.  The lady sitting next to me had what appeared to be veal.  She clearly enjoyed it, although again, it's not like you really ask for specific items at Gino's Osteria.  He just kind of brings stuff out to you.

By the time we finished the fish, it was about ten o'clock.  The noise level in the dining room was very high, but not a single person looked like they were sorry they came.  Everyone was having a good time.  I watched Gino and his wife, along with other staff, hugging and kissing guests who obviously visit him more often than we do.  Everybody-- and I mean everyone-- was having a fun evening, even though the hours were passing and it was getting late.


Bill takes a break as we wait for dessert.


We decided to split the sweets.  This is a plate of assorted Italian goodies.  There was panna cotta, incredible tiramisu, ginger vanilla gelato, roasted plums, and a berry flavored gelato.  We decided not to have coffee, since it was getting past our bedtime.

Total damage for this food extravaganza was about 140 euros, before the tip.  At almost eleven o'clock, we said goodbye to Gino's wife and the lovely German couple who had shared the culinary orgy with us.  Bill marveled at how last night's sumptuous dinner cost less than half of what we spent at Alte Post and was quite a lot more exciting.  Which isn't to mean that I didn't think last week's dinner was also amazing.  It was.  It's just that Gino's place has a very special vibe.  It's not just about excellent food.  It's about warmth and hospitality paired with food so fresh, plentiful, and healthy that you feel great as you walk out the door, basking in the afterglow.

As always, I recommend calling ahead for a table, especially if you plan to visit on a Saturday night.  In the colder months, Gino doesn't have as much seating.  Unless you come in a group, you will likely share your table with another couple.  My advice is to embrace it.  At least three times, when we've shared a table at Gino's, we've enjoyed the company of the other couple sitting with us.  In one case, we actually made new friends.  Don't be afraid to share the experience and mingle.  

Don't go to Gino's expecting pizza.  He does not serve pizza.  Don't go to Gino's looking for a quiet, romantic ambience.  It's unlikely you'll get it.  Do go there hungry and ready to try new things.  Above all, relax, have fun, and let Gino do what he does best.  I don't think you'll be sorry!

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