BY MADOLINE MARKHAM
There’s a reason you have to call GianMarco’s at least two weeks in advance to get a dinner reservation and that it filled up for Valentine’s Day around the first of the year.
The white tablecloth restaurant, hidden among Edgewood homes on Broadway, is known for its lively, energetic atmosphere as well as its upscale authentic yet innovative cuisine.
“It’s Italian-based, but it’s not your typical Italian restaurant,” owner Giani Respinto said. “We do Asian dishes. We do whatever we feel like doing. You can have spaghetti or lasagna, or you can have olive oil-poached sea bass.”
The menu is always evolving but is always guaranteed to have some favorites such as pan-roasted grouper, lunch pizzas and fettucine alfredo with gulf shrimp.
“We are always trying to get better, but the basic idea will never change,” Respinto said.
Respinto owns the restaurant with his brother, Marco, and father, Giovanni. The New York-native brothers were raised in Giovanni’s restaurant, Rocco’s in Greenwich Village.
“Where I grew up, every neighborhood had a restaurant,” Respinto said. And 10 years ago this March, he brought a new restaurant to his new-found neighborhood: Homewood.
Respinto originally moved to Birmingham from south Florida to open a location of East City Grill at Colonial Brookwood Village. He ended up liking the city enough to get his brother and father to join him here and open a restaurant together.
Today he lives next door to GianMarco’s, and his kids attend Edgewood Elementary. His father also lives in Homewood.
Respinto said he loves having his dad around GianMarco’s and that everyone else who comes in the restaurant agrees.
“There aren’t many 77-year-old guys still working,” Respinto said. “No one should retire.”
GianMarco’s has never advertised but still draws diners from Atlanta or the beach or Montgomery to eat.
“We love the loyalty of our customers,” Respinto said, recalling how he has seen many people come in for a first date then get engaged and later have children. “Over the years they become part of you.”
Wanting to build on their reputation for an expansive wine list and perceived value, GianMarco’s opened a wine shop and bar behind the restaurant in the fall. It’s in a quaint building on the creek that seats about 28.
Everything on their restaurant wine list is available there for retail price. You can drink a bottle there or take it home with you. The full restaurant menu is also available at the bar.
The bar offers a different selection of wine by the glass than the restaurant.
“Between the front and the back, we offer about 100 wines by the glass,” Respinto said.
The wine shop is open from 11 a.m. until close, Monday-Saturday.
After living in Birmingham more than a decade, Respinto has learned to talk Alabama football, but he said he was neutral in the Alabama-LSU national championship game.
“I was glad Alabama won though,” he said. “It’s good for business.”
You can view GianMarco’s menu online and keep up with their latest updates on their Facebook page.
711 Broadway Street
Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Monday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m.