Wednesday, November 5, 2014

LAX By Way of Trabuco Canyon

San Giovanni
31931 Dove Canyon Dr. 
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679

So it's been about three months since we last took our good friends Chuck and Stephanie to LAX. They seem to make a trip every three or so months to see their grand kids in South Carolina. As a thank you for Katie and I driving them up the 405 Freeway, Chuck graciously pays for our dinner. This usually entails me looking for restaurants up near the airport, areas we usually do not get up to. This time though, Chuck threw me for a loop when he wanted to share one of his favorite restaurants with us. With the pressure off of me, we headed to Trabuco Canyon, and an Italian spot called San Giovanni.

San Giovanni is located behind Santa Margarita High School, in a pretty desolate shopping center which is also home to a Gold's Gym, a couple of insurance offices, and the long departed Friends Sports Tavern. We arrived here on a Saturday night around six, and this larger sized restaurant was pretty busy. There's a patio out front which seemed to be the popular place to sit. I noticed they also did a pretty good take out business as well. The decor is pretty subdued, with a few TV screens hanging on the walls, most showing sports.

The menu at San Giovanni is about what you would expect from an Italian restaurant. They have plenty of baked Italian dishes, entrees, and pizza. Looking around the dining room, it was about 50/50 with people having pizza and the other half having entrees. Since our good friend Chuck was buying, we decided to have entrees. Let's see how that decision worked out for us.

Of course we have to start out by showing the bread we received, even before we ordered. This bread was lightly toasted, and came with the packaged butter and margarine on top of it. Not sure why the butter and margarine was not served on a separate plate, but some people are sticklers about that. I'm not one of those people. A decent, crusty bread here.

Since we did not have enough carbs on the table, we ordered these Garlic Sticks ($3.95) as an appetizer. These came topped with garlic butter and Romano cheese, with a side of marinara. These were kind of bland in my opinion. The cheese fell right off when I picked them up, and the marinara was a little on the watery side. I only had one of these, as I wanted to save room for my dinner.

One thing I always enjoy about Italian restaurants is that salads almost always are included with your meal. This was the case here at San Giovanni as well. Everyone opted for salads, but you also had your choice of soup as well. Stephanie, Katie and Chuck all tried the Insalate Verde, which is their version of a house salad. This one came with chopped greens, Roma tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, olives, and your choice of dressing. There were no complaints from any of them with their salads. I definitely had to try their Caesar here. This one came with grated mozzarella cheese, garlic flavored croutons, Romano cheese, and their Caesar dressing. This Caesar was a little off for me. Maybe it was the addition of the mozzarella cheese, or it could have been the pretty weak dressing that came on this, whatever it was, I thought this Caesar was average at best.

Stephanie loves spice, so I was not surprised that she ordered this Chicken Stuffed Ravioli alla Rustica ($17.95) with a side of their spicy fra diavolo sauce. This dish not only had the raviolis, but also some artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes thrown in. Stephanie did not finish this, so I took it for work the next day. It was pretty tasty, with plenty of chicken inside the ravioli, and their spicy sauce made this pop with flavor. A very solid plate.

Chuck, aka our hand model on this night, is pretty much a creature of habit when we go out for Italian food. He sizes a place up by their lasagna, and that was the case here at San Giovanni's on this night. This Lasagna ($13.95) was made with seasoned beef, three cheeses, pasta noodles, and topped with marinara. Chuck thought this was a middle of the road lasagna. Not the worst he has had, but not the best. It did come out steaming hot.

Fusilli al Pomodoro ($15.95) would be Katie's selection on this night. The spiraled pasta was joined on the plate by fresh basil, diced Roma tomatoes, Romano cheese, and tossed with olive oil and garlic. Katie also added some chicken to this for protein. The few bites I had of this were okay. The chicken was tender, and I liked the lightness of this dish. Wish there was more flavor from the sauce tough.

I really did not know what to try here, so after a long time perusing the menu, I came up with the Tortellini Giovanni ($19.95). With this one the tortellini is served with sliced sausage and garlic, topped with mozzarella, then I substituted the spicy diavolo sauce, and added two meatballs to round out this meal. I was glad I added the meatballs, because the sausage kind of got lost here. This was not very flavorful, and a little skimpy on the amount of sausage they put on the plate. The meatballs added more girth than flavor, but I was still happy to have them. A decent plate, but nothing earth shattering about it either.

I guess that's the way I would describe San Giovanni's. A very middle of the road Italian restaurant. I'd eat here again if I was in the area, and my car had broken down, and I was hungry waiting for the tow truck. Don't get me wrong, the food here is not horrible, but San Giovanni's is not destination dining. I feel this is a restaurant for the people of Coto de Caza and Dove Canyon, who do not want to drive too far to get something to eat, on nights that they don't want to cook. The service was good, and the prices for the most part were okay. I don't believe that my plate was worth close to twenty dollars, but at least I didn't have to pay for it. That's why we have good, "old" Chuck. Thanks for the meal buddy, and glad we got you to the airport on time again.

Out of five glasses of milk, (because Chuck and Steph were on their way to South Carolina, and the official drink of that state is milk), five being best to zero being worst, San Giovanni  gets 2 glasses of milk.

For more information about San Giovanni, go to their website here:

San Giovanni Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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