This past week, we celebrated a birthday lunch over at Giovanni Pastrami, located at the still fairly new Beach Walk Waikiki on Lewers street.
In a past Honolulu Advertiser review of this establishment, restaurateur Bob Bach described Giovanni Pastrami as “a high end deli, pizzeria with live sports”. While in appearance there’s hardly a hint of it being a deli or pizzeria, you will sense the “high end” part of the equation upon being greeted by the warm wood tones, rich textures of the Peruvian glass tile walls and clean, contemporary architectural style that makes up the space.
You really don’t sense it’s a sports bar until you walk upstairs to the second level, where you’ll find a more exclusive space surrounding a bar and a roomful of flat screen TVs.
The lighting is warm and ambient, without being obnoxious.
Witness the polished concrete countertop
This upper-level sport bar/dining area is also where the kitchen is located, within view behind a clear glass picture window.
Here you see the other half of Giovanni’s, which is comprised of the main dining room on the ground level, just inside of the main entrance…
While the decor is upscale chic, the menu selections for the most part are what you’d find at any other sports bar, from buffalo wings to pizza and burgers, to signature sandwiches piled high with meat, like every good sports bar should. There’s also an open-’til-close breakfast menu to choose from.
Those signature sandwiches were exactly why we were here, and with high expectations at that considering the high-end prices they were tagged with, along with just about everything else on the menu.
Time to eat piles of meat! lol
Diner E got dibs on one of the most defining of deli sandwiches in this genre, ordering the The Reuben…
The Reuben – A mound of hot corned beef, pastrami, or turkey piled high with swiss cheese, sauerkraut and grilled to perfect, $15.95
As the menu states, “All Deli sandwiches are served on rye bread or unless otherwise specified or requested. Served with your choice of potato salad, macaroni salad, cole slaw, or french fries.”
There’s one thing missing on Diner E’s Reuben plate that I’ll get to a little later.
Diner A ordered what Giovanni’s nicknames “The Banker”…
The Banker (Double Deck) – Hot Pastrami, Turkey and swiss cheese with ripe tomato and russian dressing, $15.95
Yours truly ordered “Chelsea’s Treat”…
Chelsea’s Treat (Double Deck) – Hot corned beef, pastrami and swiss cheese with ripe tomato and russian dressing, $15.95
As you see, Diner A and E opted for fries, while I wanted some green to go along with the mean (meat), requesting the cole slaw as my side.
Diner C ordered the Hot Pastrami.
Unfortunately, since I’m still new with my Sony H5, I inadvertently had my image stabilizer OFF (along with a bunch of other settings) during all the picture taking while we were in Giovanni Patrami, blowing over half the shots I took. Ack! That includes the shots I took of her Hot Pastrami. Oh well.
There really wasn’t much different to see than the others, anyway. Just imagine the same non-grilled rye bread piled high with pastrami and that’s it. No tomato, sauerkraut or dressing. Her hot pastrami was accompanied with a tossed salad comprised of romaine lettuce, tomato and cucumber with Thousand Islands Dressing.
Diner AC had been here before, and having already had their Reuben, this time she decided to try out something completely different, going for their Eggs Benedict off the breakfast menu…
Eggs Benedict – Two eggs poached and gourmet bacon or ham on english muffin with hollandaise sauce, $15.95
Since the dish includes two eggs benedicts, she made a special combo’ request of one with Lox and one with Pastrami, as you see in the photo (sorry about the poor lighting).
Well how was it?
Let’s have a closer look at that Reuben…
Remember I mentioned there was something missing on Diner E’s plate? That would be THE PICKLE! Diner E was very distraught about that. lol Luckily Diner C isn’t a pickle fan and gladly donated her pickle to a worthy cause, making this Reuben sandwich “complete”.
I see his point. A pickle isn’t just an afterthought, but an absolute REQUIREMENT with these type of deli sandwiches, acting as an effective palate cleanser and buffer in between bites. Otherwise all that rich and somewhat greasy heap of meat can turn into overkill, for lack of a better term, no pun intended. In fact, pass me another pickle… just one isn’t enough for all that sandwich!
Getting back to The Reuben, Diner E was very favorable of it, awarding it a solid 3-SPAM Musubi rating in overall execution. He notes the pastrami tasted fresh-made, unlike other Reubens he’s had where the pastrami tasted store-bought. The sauerkraut tasted store-bought, as did the Thousand Island-based “Russian Dressing” condiment side dish it came with, but not in a bad way, yet worth noting.
He still swears by Kenny’s (“in the Kam Shopping Center in Kaliiiiiii’hiiiii”) as having the best Reuben he’s had yet. Go figure. Sometimes the most unsuspecting places excel at dishes you’d never expect them too!
Diner A was also favorable of his “Banker” sandwich, giving it another solid 3-SPAM Musubi rating.
Finally we have my sandwich, “Chelsea’s Treat”…
This sure is a handful to shovel in your mouth. I’d recommend doing mouth and jaw stretches before eating here. lol The thick layer of chewy, peppery corned beef along with the more “beefy” pastrami is quite a punch. That’s where that pickle comes in handy, balancing it out with acidity and crunch. The pastrami and corned beef is very tasty though. While I’m no expert on New York style deli meats, I’m inclined to think these here from Giovanni’s are worthy of respect to those that are.
The rye bread was supple, fresh, characteristic and flavorful, but a bit too soft, pliable and thinly-sliced, just barely making it substantial enough to hold the multi-tiered greasy cargo.
The coleslaw was standard fare, yet pretty good, almost tasting “KFC’ish”, except with the cabbage not chopped fine like that. Hey, what’s wrong with KFC’s coleslaw? That’s good stuff!
I got to try some of the fries from Diner A’s plate, which were done perfectly. Nothing extraordinary, but just cooked right and salted right.
If I could modify this sandwich, I’d add one more slice of swiss cheese, one more layer of tomato, and I’d GRILL (or toast) the rye bread. Plus I’d throw in one more pickle and perhaps a carrot stick. For me, that would make it fantastic.
As is, right off the menu here, I give this “Chelsea’s Treat” a 2-SPAM Musubi rating.
Diner C rates her Hot Pastrami sandwich 1 SPAM Musubi, almost as a stretch. She notes the pastrami was a bit overcooked and dried out, which may have been compounded by the fact that the Pastrami sandwich doesn’t include any dressing, vegetables or cheese in it. All it is is meat and bread, with a toothpick holding it together.
Diner AC gave her Eggs Benedict a rating in the negatives, so no need go further in writing about her dish. You can figure it out. I will say the Hollandaise (requested on the side) tasted more like a light brown gravy than it did hollandaise sauce. The country fries paprika-seasoned (kinda’ weird) country fries also needed plenty of help, having a texture like they were microwaved.
It must be noted that Diner AC had a favorable experience previously trying their Reuben sandwich, which led her to encourage us in trying this place out.
The service was a mixed bag. While our server was attentive, some folks on our table felt there was some “attitude” and tacky mannerism going on. The food arrived fast and glasses kept filled, and that’s all that mattered as far as I was concerned.
The prices were perhaps our biggest problem. Not that we aren’t willing to pay that much for a fantastic New York Style deli sandwich in an upscale establishment. That’s why we were here. Just that the food didn’t live up to the expectations of such a lofty price tag. Location and environment aside, $16 is a lot of coinage to fork over for a sandwich. $10 to $12 each for what we got (and where we were) would have been acceptable, but $16? No way.
Overall with all things considered (food, service, price), our party unanimously agree in giving Giovanni Pastrami 1 SPAM Musubi.
Parking is available in the Wyndham Hotel, where you enter from a Helemua (access) road on the left side of Lewers street. It’s valet only at a rate of $3 every half hour, plus tip.
227 Lewers Street
Honolulu, HI 96815
The Tasty Island rating:
Beach Walk Waikiki on Lewers street (looking across the street from Giovanni Pastrami)