Giardino - Enoteca con cucina

Seafood and outdoor seating form a winning combination at this Italian restaurant in a fashionable area of Vinohrady

"How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence."
Benjamin Disraeli
V loves gardens. Looking at them, working in them.

She also loves seafood. Cooking it, eating it.

That's why I thought Giardino - Enoteca con cucina would be perfect for her. And I was right. She was wowed by the place when we went for dinner on a Friday night.



It's in a fashionable part of Vinohrady, close to the weird fountain on Americká street and not far from Náměstí Míru.



We walked in and both thought the dining room was warm and tastefully done, with romantic lighting.



But we had our sights set on the garden out back. V got a big smile on her face when she saw it.



"I had no idea there was a garden like this around here. You really scored." I returned the smile.

"Knowing someone with his finger on the pulse of Prague's restaurant scene has its benefits," I said.

I then sheepishly revealed that my "inside" sources were, in fact, The Prague Post and Czech Business Weekly. I can't always be first. But I do read everything I can about food in Prague.

When the waiter came, V asked if they had chilled rosé wine, a favorite summer beverage.

Unfortunately, they didn't, so she ordered a 0.15-liter flute of Prosecco (130 CZK). She had a couple of those.



She justified the cost by saying she hadn't had a vacation in a long time so these counted as part of a mini-vacation.

I wasn't drinking, so I ordered Mattoni sparkling water (35 CZK). We had three of those.

For a starter, I had the burrata con rucola (175 CZK). Burrata is a mozzarella pouch that contains a mixture of mozzarella and cream inside.



I thought it was very good. The cheese was creamy, with a slight, pleasant tang. The cherry tomatoes on the side were more tart than sweet. The rucola had a familiar, almost smoky flavor. There was already olive oil on the dish. I added a light amount of balsamic vinegar.

Just for reference, I bought a whole burrata at Aromi La Bottega last year for 85 CZK.

V ordered the grilled octopus (150 CZK). This was another winner. The octopus was very fresh and expertly cooked. The exterior of the flesh had a slight crusty texture from the grill, but the inside was soft and tender.



It sat on a bed of creamy-tasting beans. We really loved those. Just a perfect balance of flavors.

For a main course, I decided to try the risotto frutti di mare (185 CZK). I'd heard the chef used to work at Kogo, and this is my favorite dish there.

It looked almost identical to the Kogo version, with a tomato sauce mixed in with parsley, mussels, clams, shrimp, and calamari. It was a very generous portion, too. The texture of the risotto itself was excellent -- nice and chewy.



However, I have to say it did not match Kogo's version on the flavor front. What stood out most was the saltiness. After that, there was a strong flavor of an assertive olive oil. There were pools of it around the sides of the dish. Too much for me.

It was also a little too fishy tasting -- perhaps the mussels were not as fresh as they could be. The parsley tasted like the curly type, rather than leafy. Overall, it lacked the subtle complexity of Kogo's risotto.

It wasn't bad, but I was a bit disappointed. V liked it more than I did.

For herself, she ordered the whole sea bass baked in salt (310 CZK). It was very fresh, very clean, and the meat was quite moist. She thought it was good with olive oil and fresh lemon squeezed on top.



The skin on top was removed, but skin on the bottom side was still there, and it rested on a large quantity of salt. V said the meat on the plate side got very salty and not so nice to eat.

The fish did not come with a side item, so V got the grilled vegetables (85 CZK). They were basic but nicely done. The peppers were particularly sweet. The mushrooms were rather ordinary.



The service was friendly and efficient. There was really only one screw-up.



The waiter asked if we wanted some of the housemade bread when we ordered our meal. He looked disappointed when we said no. I didn't check the bill carefully until I got home and saw we were charged 30 CZK for one order of bread.

The final bill was 1,300 CZK, which wasn't cheap, but it was pumped up by V's expensive fish and veggies, her 260 CZK worth of Prosecco, plus the phantom bread. One could easily have a cheaper date there.

Overall, I'd say the starters were hits and the main courses were just OK, nothing special.

On the other hand, Giardino was quite a lot cheaper than Kogo. The seafood risotto at Giardino was 100 CZK less, according to Kogo's online menu (which is not always kept current). The grilled octopus appetizer, although bigger at Kogo, cost 130 CZK less at Giardino. Kogo's Caprese, comparable to the burrata dish, was 120 CZK more. Kogo's grilled veggies? 80 CZK more.

These savings evened the scales quite a bit in our minds. Also, Giardino's more residential address is more convenient, about a 15-minute walk from our flat.

So, will we end up there again?

Given the trials and passions of our existence lately, I'd say we'll be planted there a few more times this summer.

There was some good seafood, and as I said at the start, V digs gardens.



Giardino - Enoteca con cucina
Záhřebská 24
Prague 2
Tel.: (+420) 222 513 427

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