Experience a taste of Italy at Giardino Neighborhood Cucina, a true family-owned and operated restaurant in Lemon Grove. Not only do owners Marco Provino and wife Karina Kravalis work in the restaurant, but they also live in the neighborhood. Provino helms the kitchen, while Kravalis runs the front of the house, with each taking the time to personally greet every guest that walks through the door. “We both come from hospitality backgrounds, and liked the appeal of a neighborhood restaurant that was away from the hustle and bustle of working downtown,” says Kravalis. “We also noticed there weren’t too many sit-down, family-style eateries in Lemon Grove, so we dove in!”
A labor or love, Provino and Kravalis built everything in the restaurant by hand, with little outside help. Provino built the tables and put up the exterior wood paneling, which transformed the space, and brought it to life. Kravalis handpicked the plates, glassware, décor, and her favorite vintage floral wallpaper from Italy. A small private room in the back of the restaurant, where the pasta is made, is also available for intimate events and celebrations. “The space feels cozy and welcoming, which is how we want everyone to feel,” says Kravalis .
Born and raised in Sicily, Provino cooked all the time with his family. His menu at Giardino reflects the Italian food he grew up with, but not what diners might be accustomed too. “Many of our dishes are prepared slightly different, particularly our eggplant, which is not breaded,” he says. “Our menu ranges from classic dishes we all know, to modern Italian dishes.”
Provino says that one of the most unique items on the menu at the moment is his Chefs Pizza. “It’s a mix of mascarpone, which provides a creamy texture, pancetta for salt, and fig jam, because it’s popular in Sicily.” he says. ” The flavors work well together, and spinach adds a great texture. I just wanted to have a completely different pizza than what people are used to.“
The Steak Siciliano is another one of Provino’s favorites. “It is a very traditional dish in Sicily, and many haven’t had it here,” he says. “We bread the meat first, then cook it for texture and great flavor!”
The menu changes seasonally, and Provino sources fresh and local products, namely from Lemon Grove farmers. Look for a sister restaurant opening soon in Imperial Beach. “Our dreams our coming true, and we couldn’t be more excited and happy to share our restaurants with people,” concludes Provino.
Giardino is located at 8131 Broadway, Lemon Grove, CA 91945, (619) 825-7112.
©Written by Maria Desiderata Montana