Like many of my neighbors and friends, I’ve spent many a summer on the beach in South Carolina. In addition to the usual at-the-beach activities and fun, I get to indulge my passion for seafood, specifically shellfish, and more specifically the Chesapeake blue crab.
Ranging in size from a balled-up fist to an outstretched hand, the Chesapeake blue is both aggressive and fearless. I’ve seen an immature female stare down a full-grown German shepherd. Despite this pugnacious reputation, the blue crab has some of the sweetest, most delectable crab meat ever, so getting a pinch or two in the struggle between man and crab is worth the pain.
Because of my partiality, I am always on the lookout for blue crab on the menu, and while this presents no problem at the beach, up here in the hills is another story. Knowing my passion, our dine-around bunch’s Carnivore let it be known that Giovanni’s in Boones Creek had Blue Crab Ravioli on their menu board and suggested a visit. A quick series of phone calls rounded up the rest of us, and off we went.
After seating us in one of their spacious booths, our server Brittany confirmed that, yes, there was still some of the Blue Crab Ravioli ($10.99) left and helpfully suggested adding a Caesar Salad as my side order. The Carnivore ordered the Chicken Vegetable Pasta ($11.99) and a Caesar Salad, while our Dieter went with the Grilled Vegetable Salad with Chicken ($8.99). My dining partner ordered a small Classic Chicken Calzone ($8.99) while the Retiree chose the 10-inch Vegetarian Pizza ($9.99). Our salad course arrived first: cold, crisp romaine lettuce topped with some freshly grated parmesan cheese with the creamy Caesar dressing on the side. Just as I finished my salad, our main course arrived.
The Carnivore allowed me to sample his dish, but pointedly kept most of the chicken just out of fork range on his side of the plate. One delicate forkful of penne pasta and veggies had the savor of mushrooms, broccoli, ripe olives, purple onions and green pepper lightly sauteed in garlic and olive oil. A hint of chicken and a fine dusting of oregano and parsley finished the dish.
Our Dieter’s attention was given to her Grilled Vegetable Salad, and the consumption of same, and just out of range of my fork, too.
My partner and the Retiree were more forthcoming. The classic Chicken Calzone was excellent: a marinated chicken breast matched with ham, mushrooms and melted mozzarella, all sauced with a bowl of Giovanni’s excellent marinara for dipping.
The Vegetarian Pizza’s hand-tossed pie was perfectly baked with a soft inside surrounded by a crunchy outer crust, then topped with marinara and a harvest-load of green and banana peppers, purple onions, mushrooms, black olives, tomatoes, broccoli and some creamy-smooth melted feta cheese. The pie needed only a light sprinkle of grated Parmesan as a garnish for pure delight.
We now come to my Blue Crab Ravioli. Brittany said that the sauce used in the dish was one of Giovanni’s specials. At first glance, I wasn’t too impressed. Rather than a creamy-smooth Alfredo derivative, Giovanni had taken a white sauce as a base and added a puree of tomato, olive oil, light garlic and the merest drizzle of Marsala. After patient slow-simmering, the sauce resembled cream of tomato soup but tasted out of this world.
Not surprisingly, the steamed ravioli pasta was home made and stuffed to bursting with flaked blue crab filling so fresh I could smell the sea. Layering the ravioli with the sauce meant that every bite of crab had a corresponding taste of the marvelous sauce that was not only complementary to the dish but cleansing to the palate.
A thoughtfully-supplied basket of Giovanni’s crunchy-crusted Italian garlic bread was just right for mopping up each wayward brush-stroke of the sauce and mosaic bits of blue crab that had escaped their ravioli blanket.
The whole dine-around bunch had some and agreed that the Blue Crab Ravioli was the hit of the evening. Supper for five rang up at around $65 tax and tip included.
As we were leaving, the proprietor, Giovanni himself stopped by to see if we’d had a good time, and received a chorus of enthusiastic replies in the affirmative. All in all, he should be proud of his great restaurant that offers competent, professional service of excellent food at a reasonable price. Giovanni’s is my new favorite place to “get crabby” and have a good time doing it.