Gran Canal Caffe

By | January 13, 2006

Gran Canal Caffé
1021 N. Canal Street, Sharpsburg
Mon – Thur 5-10; Fri – Sat 5-11

Greetings, friends! I came upon this place by reading a small review of it by some college students. They said it was great, especially the cannelloni, and the best place they found in the city. This just goes to show you that not everyone has the same tastes, as I thought this place lacked interest and I’d never go back.

First, it is obviously some dinner club from the 50s, and practically nothing has changed, including the clientele, which is dominated by people who I think started going to this place in the 50s. I thought the sign for the place was way cool and retro, and indeed the whole look is sort of that way, replete with the window being this weird, opaque wavy glass-like stuff.

Retro-ness aside, the first thing that struck me about this place when I walked in was the smell. Not good. I’m still unable to identify what exactly it was the smell of (my theory was old cheese, Reed’s theory was week-old old mop water). It didn’t exactly set up the palate, but I managed to ignore the smell mostly.

Then, we got seated in sort of a divided off section, which I think of as the Under-60 section. There were tables in the main room available, but we got cordoned off for some reason. It actually didn’t bother me – I liked the privacy and they may have just been being nice – but it did point out the drastic age difference between us and the rest of the crowd.

Our waitress was very nice, but she couldn’t possibly make up for the lack of inspiration in the dishes. We tried an appetizer of artichoke hearts in a light lemon-y sauce, which she highly recommended. It was completely unexciting. Some of the artichoke hearts were not quite cooked all the way, and the sauce was…boring. The chef was totally phoning it in on that one.

Albeit disappointed, I decided to wait and see what the main dish was like. The bread and salad were suitable at least, maybe the dishes would be good too. Although it seemed like it took forever, the wait wasn’t actually too long. It only felt that way because having nothing to eat brought my attention back to the funky smell.

But finally, the dishes came. Reed got the gnocchi (I’ll let him post his review, but just a hint: it is no where near as good as Il Pizzaiolo’s gnocchi), and I got the heavily-reviewed cannelloni. Much to my appeasement, the cannelloni WAS pretty good. Basically, a veal and ricotta stuffing, with marinara over the top and a bechemal sauce too. It was not the ‘luscious’ concoction the reviews had me believing it would be, but it was decent enough.

One last note, the wine list was paltry. We got some kind of sorbet in a coconut for dessert, but the coconut was just a hollowed out shell that I got the feeling they used over and over, and the sorbet, well, it was not memorable, but not bad.

Bottom line, I think they made a successful cannelloni back in the 50s and decided to stick with it. Maybe it is the only good thing there. I won’t be going back to find out.


Lemon Artichoke Appetizer

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