Salem Food Digest - A Saturday At Caffe Graziani

Paula and Giovanni Host Some Old and New Friends

By The BaldOne

We all have our favorite spots. Sometimes you can explain exactly why a place really draws in your business. It could be the a particular entree or the way that they serve a broiled haddock. Maybe the wine list or the beer selection is the attraction. It could be the staff or the ambience, or even the location.

For the last 18 years I have been a fan of Caffe Graziani. The wine selection is fine. They serve a cold Perroni beer. The staff is friendly, Nancy and Donna always take good care of customers. Add it up with the really good, home-style Italian food and you have a winning formula. A formula that has led to a very loyal following for twenty years.

But wait… there’s more.

There’s Paula and Giovanni. Paula is the dark-haired ball of energy that runs the front of the house. She covers the floor, pours your wine, suggests a menu item, and stays on top of the many conversations developing around the dining room. In the kitchen is Giovanni, the creative chef, speaker of many tongues, and a fine and good looking native of Piglio, Italy. They have created a true family type atmosphere aided and abetted on occasion by sons, Giancarlo and Giacomo.

Last month they allowed a rowdy rabble of Salem Food Digest fans to invade their business for a little wine, a little food, and a really good time. 14 of us sat in the middle of the dining room and raised a ruckus for two solid hours.

The set menu began with a chilled and delicious Antipasto. One of the things I love about an antipasto is the presentation. Few places do it exactly the same. This one came with a little brushcetta, three cheeses including mozzarella garnished with fresh basil, artichoke, and of course a nice proscuitto. 

Our main entree was a 1/2 & 1/2 dish of pastas. The Gnocchi came in a fresh cherry tomato basil sauce. Gnocchi seems to be the most basic and under appreciated of the pastas. Every time I eat some, the question occurs as to why I don’t eat more of it. The paired dish was a Trofie pasta with shrimp and peas. Trofie a a short twisted pasta that originated in Genoa and is usually served in a pesto sauce. Giovanni however, surprised us with a curry cream sauce.

The curry generated much conversation and a few wondered how well it would go with the Gnocchi. This may be something a few of us will try at home.

Desert was a Ricotta Pie, made in-house by Giovanni. If you like fresh made pie, and haven’t had one made at Graziani then your life is not complete. His pies are the “Capo de Tuttio Capi” of pies. Apple, cherry, ricotta, it doesn't matter. Giovanni is a Master Pie Maker.

“We must issue a correction on the origin of the Ricotta Pie. While Giovanni is in fact the Pie Master he does not make this pie. It is “Nonna” made by none other than Paula’s Mother in East Boston. We sincerely regret the error and would like to avoid any sort of old-school Italian corporal punishment.:

All of the aforementioned food was washed down with the house red, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the house white, Tebiano d’Abruzzo.

We had a fun and very conversational group which included a few who had never been there before. The First lady of Downtown Salem Jacqui attended, as did friends Sarah, Katrina, Alicia & Michael, Tommy & Don, Shama, and Barbara. We were also treated to a late entry by one of Salem’s more well know Italian-American families, the Cornacchio clan.

I can’t end end this without mentioning that Paula & Giovanni will be retiring soon so your window at Caffe Graziani is closing slowly.

They are open for breakfast also, and in the opinion of this not so humble lover of fine food, their pancakes are the best in Salem. Let other places serve frisbees on a plate. The pancakes here are small, thin, and full of flavor. Try the lemon-ricotta.

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Caffe Graziani

133 Washington St, Salem, MA 01970
(978) 741-4282