Tucked away in a little village called Sheepy Parva in Leicestershire, is a well established award winning (Tripadvisor excellence award winners 2017-2019) Italian restaurant.
It is not a nationally renowned restaurant but has a very good reputation locally. Almost all dishes are cooked fresh to on site and all main courses are cooked to order. They are happy to adapt any on the menu to suit particular tastes.
We had passed San Giovani many times before as it was fairly close to our old home in Leicestershire. A modern building overlooking a large lake, it is a beautiful spot to sit and watch the sun go down on the terrace. Inside is a mix of modern décor meets 1970s and the large open plan areas allow for a wonderful large chandelier.
We sat facing the lake and as it was a little chilly, we left our coats on. We were greeted in Italian and this added a sense of authenticity to the place. They had a good selection of mainly Italian but European and new world wines. We chose the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (£24)as it is an intense dry white wine (actually slightly greenish/yellow) as we had chosen mainly fish dishes. After taking the cork out it was taken away meaning we would be unable to take any spare wine away.
Due to its location it has little competition locally. This makes it very popular and it took us many attempts to book.
We decided to try the Bruchetta (£8) to start with, it was served with a healthy load of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil on a small bed of rocket salad. They were very tasty and a lovely start.
I chose the Gamberoni al Aglio which roughly translates to Prawns with Garlic. It arrived only about 10-12 minutes after ordering which was impressive in itself. I love both and was quite impressed when the bowl of large king prawns arrived. Seeped in garlic, butter, a touch of chilli and white wine sauce it looked quite tasty.
The five large “proper” king prawns were very juicy and flavoursome. The tomato sauce was light (not thick), creamy, and one could taste the basil coming through. At £10 it seemed like good value for money to me as the prawns were of good quality.
Pook decided (as she often does) to also go for a seafood dish. Frutti di Mare Saltati was a mixture of sauté seafood with garlic, a touch of chilli and white wine sauce. Even at £11 (not cheap) it also seemed good value as it was full of seafood. The mussels were nice and fresh, three large king prawns were accompanied by a least five fresh calamari and squid.
The calamari was the only element here that could have been improved upon as it was tender, but also quite bouncy meaning with a little more care it could be that bit better. White wine, garlic, chili sauce and a hint of lemon coated the ingredients. The lemon slowly gave way to a smoother and less acidic finish. There were lots of good ingredients in both dishes and we looked forward to the main course.
After a perfectly acceptable wait, the mains arrived. Pook hadn’t had lobster for some time so chose the Taglionni Lobster (£20). Very thin home-made egg pasta arrived with half a lobster and was coated in garlic, chilli and white wine cream and tomato sauce. Home-made pasta made well can be delightful, and this was made and cooked very well. The sauce was very light, creamy with lots of lobster (it had been taken from the shell and the body of the lobster plated for show) and prawns in it and gave the whole dish a big hit of the seaside and sea. A spicy finish to the taste meant the plate was cleaned.
It’s fair to say that when the two dishes arrived, I was a little jealous. Despite it tasting nice, risotto rarely looks great on a plate.
The Risotto al frutti del Mere was a mere £15 and was an Italian risotto with mixed seafood white wine and fresh tomato. Once I took a mouthful I was no longer jealous, the sauce covered every grain of rice and was cooked just right. Calamari and soft lobster decoration covered it and the meal was good sized.
I asked for a little lemon as it needed just a little zing to break down the starch. It was lovely, very nice and then wow.. hidden underneath was the gem of the dish.. an 8” langoustine, nicely seasoned and a perfect surprise.
We rarely have a sweet as we like to watch our figures (yeah like that’s still working!) but as the starter and main had been so good, we opted to share the Tiramisu (£5). The waiter told us that the sweets are not made on site, but were made by a specialist cake maker locally. It could easily be seen by some as being a failure to not produce a whole ensemble yourself; but as staff were openly telling us that it was not made by them, we thought this was actually an admittance of what they do well and what could probably be done better.
A local Italian family-made coffee cake with Savioardi biscuits (otherwise known as lady fingers) was the ideal solution and perfectly complimented their service. Finished with a touch of marsala and amaretto liqueurs, it was nice, thick, creamy and a perfect finish to a lovely meal.
Pook estimated the bill would be £75 and the food came to £69 making San Giovanni’s Good value for money.
We would happily travel 18 miles to visit this Italian restaurant providing tasty, not pretentious, hearty meals.