Sunday, August 28, 2011

Riding Out Hurricane Irene at GianMarcos in the H'wood.

 Did any of you share a sick thought while watching the ubiquitous Weather Channel reporters trying to explain why it was foolish for listeners to brave the high winds and storm surge of Hurrican Irene while they stood a few yards from the surf hunched over like Quasimodo in the wind gusts?

"Only a fool or a brave weathercaster would go out in this storm...." (TWC's Jim Cantore shows us which direction not to spit.)
I thought for a second: Wouldn't it be very ironic if a stray piece of building material would fly from the side of the screen and conk Jim Cantore on the head during one of these now staple shots of him in his LL Bean attire buffeted by hurricane winds? Not kill him, mind you, just shut him up about staying indoors. A show of hands? I thought so. There are more of we sicko's than we care to admit. Especially the guy who mooned the entire nation in the background as some Weather Channel reporter tried to scare everyone to not do what he was in fact doing at the time: Standing near a beach as a hurricane was coming ashore.

"As you can see the storm is...WTF!!" (Wheeeeee!)
Which, logically, brings me to Lunch in the Gump. We have, for years now, warned you all about leaving the Gump to go "over the wall" into the nether worlds beyond the bypass for lunch just a stridently as the nerdy meteorologists at The Weather Channel harp on evacuating or staying "in your safe place." Yet, you have no doubt noted that we, as they do, often break our own rules to visit exceptional places like Spring House or Chez Fonfon or The Wishbone Cafe or to wander like a fool out into hurricane force winds.

I must admit that I too have ventured outside the safety of our little Gump-world recently. However, I had a good reason: A desire for fine Northern Italian food served in casual but white table-cloth restaurant where you do not have to use a bathroom the size of a cheap RV's water closet. The name Corsino's may come to mind because they have a cramped W.C. and grungy tables but they most certainly do not serve Northern Italian food.

Indeed, do any of you remember when the Gump had a really good local Northern Italian restaurant? I recall a very fine Northern Italian restaurant in the basement of the Downtowner with a chef named Ferrari but the name of the restaurant I cannot recall. More recently I remember Del'Amalia which was located where India Palace is now. I miss them both very much. They both served high quality and authentic Northern Italian food with excellent service and interesting wine lists. Why they closed I will never understand. I think they were ahead of their time for the Gump.

Unfortunately, to enjoy high-end non-chain Italian cuisine at a white table cloth restaurant with apron- clad waiters today you have to go north to the Hwood i.e. Homewood. So the other day, while I was in the Ham getting some required Continuing Legal Education and being lectured by young whippersnapperlawyers with 15 years of experience regaling me with information I have known for 30 years. (It was not even worth asking questions that would embarrass them.) So as the lecturer droned on, I checked Urban Spoon and found some pretty uniform and high recommendations for a place in Homewood named GianMarcos. I decided then and there to go out into the storm to try a place I could not enjoy in the safety of the Gump.

Rather than stay for a presentation on the ridiculous tax breaks offered film companies in Alabama, I snuck out early and, with the aid of my talking car's navigation system, found the nondescript little place located amid a very quaint little neighborhood in South Homewood.

Parking was a challenge even though I arrived around 11:45 a.m.. I entered the cozy bar area and noted the ample selections of Scotch behind the bar and the accolades from local magazines on the wall. When I entered the dining area to the right I saw the open kitchen on the left and a dark room with about 20 tables to the right. The place had the ambiance of Michael's Table (which is a good thing). Tall draped windows served as a backdrop to the candle lit tables and open kitchen-where servers stood awaiting the plates of food verses the food getting cold waiting for servers. Their motto at Gian Marcos is "People wait for pasta. Pasta does not wait for people." Incidentally, the name is a combination of the first names of the owners and operators: Brothers Giani and Marco Respinto. They are not from Millbrook.

Once at the entrance to the seating area I was quickly greeted by a professional waiter in a shirt and tie who sat me and brought me a basket of fresh Italian bread. A carafe of olive oil was already on the table along with the lunch menu.

The choices were many: A cheese selection, a prosciutto selection, pastas and sandwiches. I chose a sandwich with sausage, onions on Italian bread. Delicious! Wish I had the vocab to describe or the memory to remember all the ingredients. Left my phone in the car and could not get a picture. You will just have to trust me on this one.

And trust me on this: They only serve lunch on Wednesdays through Fridays and at night, a reservation is highly recommended.

So until the Gump attracts a quality Northern Italian restaurant I will occasionally ignore my own advice and venture into the dangerous storm that is Birmingham traffic--until a sign blows into my head or some texting "Ham"ster rear ends me. 

GianMarco's on Urbanspoon


  1. Hurricanes? - As Ron White says, "It isn't *that* the wind is blowin'. It's *what* the wind is blowin'".

  2. As Bidgood Bob Dylan would say: "The answer (and a boat load of building material) is blowin' in the wind...."