Eat fresh from Giovanni's beautiful vegetable garden at his Continental Cuisine restaurant on Lake Conroe and discover something timeless and wonderful: a tranquil and elegantly comfortable dining experience that literally begins from the fruits and labor rooted into the land surrounding Giovanni Febbo's traditional establishment.
Age-old tradition is something Giovanni knows from personal experience. Born and raised in Calabria, Italy, a region with a thousand stories of civilization, culture, great battles and great beauty, Giovanni trained from generations of European cuisine experts, living in a land culturally known as producing the most exquisite flavors in all the Mediterranean area.
Located at the southern tip of the Italian peninsula, Calabria is a place few people of today know: A land of fragrant orange orchards, ancient olive groves and terraced vineyards where the snow tipped mountains still shine down beautifully over thick luscious forests and white sand beaches, the coast is still clear and uncomplicated, the food is still indigenous to the region and the people are still living the Italian way; a place of tradition and ritual, where the annual swordfish catch and eggplant harvest are celebrated with elaborate festivals and families celebrate their homegrown and homemade recipes passed down instead of written down. Here, in this land, Giovanni became the man who would later plant his roots in America and eventually bring his home away from home to the residents of Montgomery County.
Calabrian’s have traditionally placed an emphasis on nature and the preservation of their food, one of the many cultural traditions Giovanni brought with him to his restaurants in America, first in Dallas and then to Lake Conroe. While strolling through Giovanni's outdoor vegetable, herb, fruit and flower garden behind his restaurant on Hwy. 105 W in Montgomery, you will find fresh and sweet-smelling plots growing such fare as tomatoes, eggplants, squash, artichokes, bell peppers, cucumbers, basil, oregano and parsley alongside various vines and trees growing grapes, olives, figs and lemons.
Freshness is something Giovanni is passionately concerned about at his restaurant. "I like nature,” Giovanni said with delight in his eyes. "Gardening relaxes me. We always had gardens in my family; freshness, freshness, freshness; it's my motto:'
Everything grown in Giovanni's patio garden is brought straight into the kitchen and used to season, savor and compliment his dishes, all derived from family recipes in Calabria. With freshness as his motto, you can be assured that everything is organic and fresh at Giovanni's Continental Cuisine Restaurant.
"Our food is not loaded with spices to make it tasty, our food is good because it is fresh and cooked naturally:'
The food of Calabria is simple and elegant: pastas and vegetables complemented by olive oil, sausage and bruschetta. Essentially a distinctive southern Italian Mediterranean cuisine with a balance between meat-based dishes, vegetables (especially eggplant), fish and pasta, the area also has vineyards with origins dating back to ancient Greek colonists and was known in ancient times as "the land of wine:' Surrounded by water on three sides, Calabria is known for curing fish, especially swordfish, sardines and cod. With such a rich history and flavorful pallet, Giovanni has masterfully brought his region's timeless cuisine traditions to the shores of Lake Conroe, providing local Texans with a delicious porthole into time-honored southern Italian cuisine.
Exquisite dishes at Giovanni's Continental Cuisine include Lobster Capellini, Linguini Puttanesca, Chicken Boscaiola, Filet Mignon AuPoivre, Veal Dama Bianca, Grilled Quail, Calamari Luciano, Poached Salmon, Trout Almondine, Crepes Florentina, Shrimp Napoleon, Crespolini Forentina, and Mussels Garlic, just to name a few. Traditional Italian feasts such as Linguini with Red or White Clam Sauce, Baked Lasagna, Fettuccini Alfredo, Eggplant Parmigiana, Cheese Ravioli Aurora, Veal and Chicken Parmigiana, Shrimp Scampi, Escargot and Tortellini also adorns Giovanni's menu, all made from scratch with exotic flavors, sauces and natural touches derived from his homeland.
When asked which menu item Giovanni, himself, enjoys as his personal favorite, he immediately answered with mouth-watering excitement. ''I've been eating the Fisherman's Platter more than anything, because it is so fresh and healthy. It's light and very low fat;' he stated. "My second favorite is our Veal Vincent:' With a robust old-country Italian accent, Giovanni raved, "I make my veal scaloppini browned on both sides with two cheeses, I saute in lemon and butter and I add fresh artichokes; it is delicious!" Not only is the scrumptious veal dish a personal favorite of Giovanni's, but he said it is also the one thing on his menu that literally hooks his patrons to come back time and time again. "It is almost like a drug;' his nephew and head chef, Max, (also from Calabria) stated with a chuckle. "Once someone orders it, they come back begging for more! It is what brings them in:' According to both Giovanni and Max, it is the most popular item from their menu.
For those craving pasta, Giovanni's personal favorite is his family's "Puttanesca" served with linguine, Greek olives, capers, anchovies, fresh oregano and homemade tomato sauce. If you are feeling particularly carnivorous, Giovanni can speak novels about his Filet Mignon, served two different ways on the menu, one marinated and grilled to perfection and another rubbed with cracked pepper and grilled with a Brandy cream sauce. "People tell me they cannot find any place that has a filet as good as mine:' he said with pride. Calamari is another menu item Giovanni says is extremely popular with his customers. "People have them everywhere in the world, but never as good as mine, they tell me. I don't know why; I just lightly flour and fry in good oil, I think mine is better because here, it is fresh:' he said.
Giovanni's mouth-watering menu easily has something to fit any and every taste palate, but for those who have special dining needs or requests, feel free to ask Giovanni if he can create your very own custom dining experience. "I can do special requests for anyone:' Giovanni assures. "If it's in the house, we cook it!" When discussing his menu, family recipes, or his hand-grown garden, Giovanni definitely is not a modest man; but do not mistake his lack of modesty as arrogance. As a restaurant owner, father and family man, Giovanni overflows with a sense of cultural tradition, pride and passion. He is a perfectionist with honest devotion to his skill while taking great joy in his daily pleasures: gardening, cooking, and meeting new people.
A true labor of love, Giovanni began his patio garden as a small side project, spending one hour every other morning tending, but as his small crops multiplied, so did his passion and demands from his kitchen. Today, his patio garden now boasts a recently constructed mini greenhouse, new rows of vegetable planters and a complete irrigation system.
"I start my own seeds in the greenhouse around February through March so my plants are already big enough to plant come spring;' Giovanni explained.”Every year, the garden gets bigger and better:'
This past summer, Giovanni produced his first watermelon crop - 11 large watermelons - sweet, juicy and full of freshness. "The flavor when you grow your own ... there is no comparison;' he said excitedly. "Next summer, I'm going to harvest around 75 plants on the land behind the patio;' he said. "Once they ripen, I'll place a sign out front, maybe once per week, and invite children and families to come and pick their own:'
Now busy preparing a fresh winter crop including Brussel sprouts, broccoli, eggplant, cucumbers, bell peppers, cabbage and paisley, Giovanni happily rubs his hands through the soil while pointing out new seedlings and blooming plants. To say gardening relaxes Giovanni is an understatement; gardening seems more of a gateway for Giovanni, preserving his family traditions in a way allowing him to keep his past as a rich accoutrement to his present and future.
Leaving Calabria in 1985 with his nephew, Max, Giovanni came to America and settled in Dallas where he opened two successful Italian cuisine restaurants. "I read about Texas being so friendly;' he said. "I came and it turned out to be true:' His restaurants were voted within the top three restaurants in the Dallas area from 1985 -1993 he said. Running two successful restaurants became extremely high paced and exhausting, and he came to the Lake Conroe area in 1993 to open a new restaurant on the relaxing shores of the quiet, resort town.
"There was so much opportunity here;” Giovanni stated. "There were no restaurants to speak of then. You could walk across Hwy 105 and not see a car for miles and miles:' He was thrilled to open his "little" restaurant by the lake in Montgomery and introduce his culture and theory of "slow food" to the residents and visitors of the area. "People in Dallas still hope I go back and open again;' he said with an unpretentious shrug. “But I like it here. I have my garden and I sit out here with my espresso and watch the lake.”
As his popularity quickly grew, so did Giovanni's "little restaurant.” Expanding to include the outdoor flower patio with gazebo and gardens, a nightly fresh Oyster Bar, and a trendy yet mature Martini Bar and Lounge, Giovanni's "slow food" atmosphere has grown to become a favorite amongst families, couples, young professionals and retirees alike.
"The lounge has become a regular meeting place for so many people here,” Giovanni said. "People always ask me, 'Giovanni, when you going to build a hotel to go with the lounge?” he said with a roaring laugh. "Well, I don't know. But this is the most relaxing atmosphere here.” Today, Giovanni enjoys his business alongside his family and young son, Giovanni Jr., who is already begging his daddy to teach him the ropes and cooking secrets planted so many generations before him. "He's always asking me, When you going to teach me poppy?" Giovanni said with adoring affection. "He likes to come and help and be in the kitchen, but I don't know if he will follow in my footsteps; he likes to play on the computer.” he said with a loving snicker.
When not attending to his restaurant, Giovanni continues his love of gardening and fine cuisine at home. He presses his own olives to make homemade olive oil and uses his grape vines to make fresh wine. There is nothing Giovanni does, personally or professionally that does not root itself from nature. Remaining connected to his homeland, Giovanni, one of eight children born into a restaurant family, travels back to Calabria every few years and visits family and friends while keeping his cuisine training freshly embedded from the land where it all began for him.
Giovanni invites everyone living in or visiting Lake Conroe to visit his restaurant and enjoy the flavors of his native land. "This is the right time to enjoy our patio.” Giovanni states, pointing to the cooler Texas temperatures and lower humidity. Come for dinner. Come for a Chocolate Martini. Come for TiraMiSu and a steaming cup of rich Espresso as the sun sets over Lake Conroe. Come to the lounge and enjoy a glass of wine while listening to live music on the patio nightly. Come to fill your belly, or just to relax and see friends, new and old. Whatever your reason for coming, Giovanni will personally greet you with open arms and invite you to relax as part of his family in the surroundings he, himself, has nurtured.
Giovanni's Continental Cuisine is open six days a week, 5:00 p.m. ~ 10:00 p.m. Weekend specials can be viewed on his website, www.giovannis105w.com and reservations are strongly recommended by calling the restaurant at 936-588-4666. A carry-out menu is available and local delivery is offered within seven miles of the restaurant. If looking for a location to host a party or wedding, Giovanni and his staff are fully equipped to fulfill your desires with a private banquet room or the outdoor lake-view patio catered for your event. Onsite weddings are also welcomed outdoors under the fresh flower adorned gazebo with a catered reception following inside or outside. Call or drop in for more details. Now is the time to book your holiday parties.
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