I'd been hearing whispers--even outright declarations--for months about a restaurant in Camarillo that served the best Italian food between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. A place called Giovanni's. Some people were even saying it was the best restaurant in the county.
I admit I was doubtful when I first saw Giovanni's shopping center address. But when I walked in, I found a classic, formal restaurant, with no relationship to its neon-lit come-and-shop surroundings. This place could even have been intimidating: The staff was better-dressed than my companions and I. But the young son of the owner was also on hand that evening. Obviously, under its classy veneer, this is a restaurant with a sense of family.
We sat in an alcove, backed by a decorative wall of wines, and began with bite-sized pieces of warm focaccia bread that gave off a subtle aroma of garlic. An antipasto of lettuce, tomatoes and grilled eggplant came with fabulous roasted peppers. Eggplant played the role of pasta in the cannelloni appetizer. Wrapped around mozzarella, it was lightly dressed with a parsley cream sauce that had a slight mushroom flavor.
When the salads arrived, we had to agree with those rumors about Giovanni's. One salad with baby spinach and fresh basil leaves was decorated with thin slices of good smoked salmon, fine smoked trout and more of those wonderful roasted peppers. Slices of robust lamb on greens with sweet pine nuts, little white beans and warm goat cheese were drizzled with a perfect vinaigrette.