It's hard to imagine a more spectacular space in which to dine than the one at Brooklyn's Giando on the Water. Situated at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge, this old-line Italian-American restaurant takes full advantage of its location along the East River. Its soaring ceilings, glass walls, and sparkling opulence provide an ideal setting for watching the sun descend through the screen of the Manhattan skyline. Bundle the foregoing elements with easy access and ample parking, and Giando would seem to be the quintessential special-occasion venue—for a wedding party, family reunion, or other catered affair. The very best reason to visit, however, is to lose yourself in the eyes of your date, when distractions such as food and wine are unnecessary, or even unwelcome. Go for the romance, because you're certainly not going there for the food.
The meals aren't bad, they're simply banal. Perhaps this point was emphasized by the sharp contrast between the extraordinary surroundings and the extremely ordinary comestibles. But the upshot is that the food is unmemorable, in the most literal way. What was the sauce on my salmon? Something a little buttery? Did my Comestaccomplice have the Chicken Piccata, or was it Francese? I had to rely solely on my dining notes for all my recollections.
For the record, I ordered the Broiled Salmon Dijon (listed on the menu as "De Jon"). Hints of mustard enhanced the fish slightly, but the flavorless broccoli and forgettable potatoes made this seem like a dish that could have been served at Olive Garden. My Comestaccomplice's Chicken al Limone was of the same caliber: a little lemony and a lot ordinary. The Insalata Capricciosa, er, salad, wasn't quite up to the aforementioned Olive Garden's standards. (And it didn't even come with breadsticks!) For dessert, the so-called Homemade Chocolate Cake seemed industrial.
The wine list had its own problems. It's wildly overpriced, with offerings that do battle with the many lighter and more subtle menu offerings. We'd finally found one bottle that would complement our dishes, but apparently so had everyone else: it was sold out. We couldn't find a single other bottle that would suit our main courses. This may have been the only moderate-to-fine-dining meal at which my dining partner and I had forgone some sort of alcoholic beverage. Even if it's a glass of wine, a beer, or a mixed drink, we invariably enjoy some type of libation at dinner. We tried hard, honestly we did, but it simply couldn't happen in light of Giando's offerings.
At least we had the beautiful setting and well-trained waitstaff at our disposal … well, sort of. Once it became clear that there was to be no wine served to us, we were all but abandoned in favor of the two or three other tables occupied that evening. (The staff-to-customer ratio was close to par.) Since the 20% service charge is obligatory, why bother making any effort to earn it?
There was little benefit to visiting here for the Dine In Brooklyn promotion. As it turns out, Giando on the Water offers three-course Prima sera specials all year (Monday through Friday) for $25.95. For the two of us, the restaurant-week savings amounted to less than two dollars. Perhaps I shouldn't be too critical, however. Three courses and a magnificent view for $25 isn't all that bad.
Giando on the Water
400 Kent Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (map)