Provided that you don’t head into Gioia with dreams of a pizza revelation, you will not be disappointed. With a marble bar, wood walls and tables, and a professionally chalked chalk board, the space is nicer than most of its Polk Street counterparts. It’s a perfect date night spot for married couples and people who’ve been dating for all 39 seasons of The Bachelor, but it's not a place to show off your corporate card and gastronomical prowess. There are candles and lanterns, but it’s still not a super romantic situation, and the noise levels are at that point where you still feel like it’s “a place” but you aren’t going to wake up with a sore throat from yell-commenting on the wine selection.
Gioia runs a SERIOUS take out operation, and is also just an operation in general. It’s busy every night, but never seems hectic or stressful, and generally comes across as a place run by restaurant veterans. They can multi-task, and the service is attentive, especially if you can get bar seats, which is always our move. They play good music, they’re quick on the refills and they don’t leave you waiting too long to order. What more can you really ask for? Except for one thing: they strictly enforce the rule that you can only add items from a pre-approved list to your pizza. There is nothing worse than a restaurant telling you that you “CAN’T” add sausage to your pizza when they readily stock it. YES WE CAN! Obama 2032.
The restaurant is also conveniently right across the street from Greens - one of our go-to sports bars - and a place that serves exactly zero food. We have rolled into Gioia many a time for some sustenance after one two many beers on an empty stomach and they’ve always treated us like respectable humans rather than a semi-drunken situation to be dealt with.
But, despite the warm vibe and stepped up service, there are some issues, mainly the pizza. It's just not that good. We’re talking C student crust. Bad crust makes us cringe. It makes us hurt inside. The cheese can also be sub-par, a little Pizza Hut, chain tasting...which leaves your pizza with some fresh vegetables and pureed tomatoes as its claim to fame. So, as a pizza spot, this is a 5. As a dinner spot, we give it lots of cred because all the other small plates are tasty and well priced. So, set your sights on sharing several antipasti and you’ll walk away happy.
Four, citrusy gems of fish dusted with fancy pistachio powder which is more than you’d expect from a spot like Gioia. Light and fresh and an excellent contrast to all the cheesecarbs to come. Trademarking that word ASAP.
Meyer lemon yogurt kicks these up. These are carrots you don’t want to share, and usually everyone is OK with sharing carrots.
The meatballs and a salad or a veggie side make a great meal. Mostly because the meatballs are f*cking fantastic. Traditional, simple, and some of our faves in the city.
Toast heavily slathered in cheese, with some chard to green it up. This is garlicky and good to share - very solid but unexceptional.
This is like how Terzo calls a salad with three-quarters of an artichoke "marinated artichokes." This is an arugula salad studded with blood oranges. It’s good and peppery, and the dates and almonds are hidden treasures you’ll be digging for.
The crust is a little dry, flavorless and not thin enough or thick enough. It’s just there. The pickled jalapenos on this one are super good, but we want more sausage and better cheese. Red sauce is fine.
We usually spring for the red sauce side of the menu, but the extra fresh ricotta on the asparagus makes this one better than average. The broccoli version is decent too.