Setting the Table
The most fun part of my job is discovering little neighborhood restaurants serving excellent food, and this week's feature is special.
The transformation from Pawleys Deli & Subs, which is what the business at 10225 Ocean Highway in Pawleys Island used to be, to Dave Giorlando's restaurant named Gio's, is a lesson in what a deft touch with decor can do for a place.
Not that Pawleys Deli looked bad, because it didn't. I'm thinking more of the Chinese Buffet next door where the landlord locked the owners out for non-payment of rent. That couple had no sense of style, and my attempts at suggesting little improvements were met with, "That costs money."
Uh, yeah, but spending a little money to create a pleasant ambiance pays off, and hopefully the transformation at Gio's was worth Giorlando's sweat equity. He built a new wall around the kitchen, laid black and white tile, painted the walls pleasant black, maroon and beige shades and draped the tables with classically cheerful red and white checkered cloths. It manages to look really nice without being the least bit pretentious.
Down the Hatch
The menu is mostly Italian, and while perfectly respectable subs and pizzas are on the menu, there are also specialty dishes that blew me away.
Any time a dish description says, "secret family recipe," my culinary radar zeroes in. In this case it was Go Go Garlic Shrimp ($7), a recipe passed down from Giorlando's grandmother. The menu description of the appetizer doesn't reveal much, but it consists of chilled medium-size shrimp in a marinade of lemony, garlicky, creamy sauce containing fresh herbs and a dash of pepper. It's garnished with roasted red peppers and served with crunchy crostini you can soak in the sauce.
On a hot summer day, it's a luscious way to cool off and kick back.
Other appetizers ($5-$11) include Dave's Wings, Fried Calamari, Loaded Fries and Antipasto for Two.
The meal got better with my Scungilli Salad, where slices of cold marinated conch, roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives and cheese-stuffed pepperoncinis graced a bed of cold, crunchy Romaine dressed in tangy oil and vinegar dressing.
If marinated raw conch isn't your first choice, other salads ($4.50-$10) include Greek Goddess with olives, red onion and feta; Gorgonzola Salad with tomatoes, onion, olives, cucumbers, carrots, celery, bell pepper and house-made Gorgonzola dressing; and Caprese with fresh Buffalo mozzarella and vine-ripened tomatoes.
Gio's also has specialty pizzas ($12.25-$17) such as The Stinger with red and green chilies and hot oil; Clams Casino Pizza; Barbecue Chicken; and Eggplant and Roasted Red Pepper. You can design your own pizza with toppings such as caramelized onions and gorgonzola cheese, and Calzones and Stromboli are $7.
Hot and cold sandwiches ($5-$6.25) are available during lunch, and a few of those choices are Omelet Sandwich, Meatball Parmesan, Gyro, Steak or Chicken Philly and the Italian Combo with cappicola, hard salami, mortadella, pepperoni, provolone, lettuce, tomato, red onion and roasted red peppers drizzled with Gio's house dressing.
Six pasta dishes are served during dinner, including Bowtie Primavera ala Vodka; Gio's Seafood Skillet with shrimp and Little Neck clams; and Chicken Scarpiello with Italian sausage and a sweet and spicy balsamic reduction.
Kiddoes have four entree choices for $3.50-$5: Mozzarella Sticks, Chicken Tenders with fries, Cheese Pizza or Buttered Bowtie Pasta.
For $1 I added dessert to my meal - a four-bite cannoli. Giorlando makes the filling himself, and it's a mellow and creamy meal finisher that's not nearly as sweet (in a terrific way) as other cannoli fillings. The cannoli shell was crispy and fresh.
There is one thing about Gio's I can't stand: It's 20.57 miles from my house, and I'd prefer it to be around the corner.
Gio's is at 1225 Ocean Highway in Pawleys Island, and the number is 237-8245. It's open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from noon to 8:30 p.m. Sundays.
Becky Billingsley serves up fresh news daily at www.MyrtleBeachRestaurantNews.com.