by Eric Ginsburg
High Point Furniture Market means a lot of things to a lot of people — money, probably, above all else — but to me, it only really meant two things this time around: a roommate, and altered lunch plans.
A friend has been staying with me for the last four nights now, shacking up in my guest room because his family rents out their home in the southwestern corner of Greensboro every furniture market for a considerable profit. I’ve grown used to living alone over the last five months but it’s been nice having him around… assuming that he leaves tomorrow like he’s supposed to, that is.
Other than that, the only way this season’s market directly affected me came last week, after I finished an interview near downtown High Point just before lunch and was looking for somewhere to dip in. It’s the liveliest I’ve ever seen Main Street — not different enough to be unrecognizable, but jarring enough to make me think of a giant street festival, maybe something like what the National Folk Festival will do to transform downtown Greensboro in September, albeit on a smaller scale.
So rather than fight the spillover crowds who weren’t dining at private showroom events, I swung wide to Eastchester Drive, following the recommendation of a native to her favorite restaurant as a kid growing up in the Triad’s Third City.
Though Giannos is across the street from the oft-forgotten Christian school Laurel University, a High Point University flag waves from its front edifice. It occupies a strip filled with a number of popular international food options, including La Hacienda Mexican restaurant, Thai Herb and a Chinese drive-thru called Chu’s Express.
Create-your-own menu options fluster me, the variety of combinations creating a sense that I can’t find the right locker combination rather than the idea of unfettered possibilities. I do better with a buffet — one of the main offerings at this Italian restaurant with a stone pizza oven — piling on portions of numerous items rather than limiting myself to one combination. But my friend swears by the build-your-own pasta at Giannos, especially in a bread bowl, and I wasn’t about to question her, though I came close to ordering the mango chicken sandwich.
The first part was easy, picking fettuccini noodles and electing gorgonzola Alfredo, a slight upgrade from its more common counterpart. Scanning the array of meats and vegetables, my eyes landed a few times, returning to the homemade sausage and artichokes more than anything else. But almost as soon as I placed my order I second-guessed myself, thinking I should’ve incorporated broccoli or a whole host of other things.
But this wasn’t the buffet, where you can choose from half a dozen pizzas and several salad options as well. Each ingredient came with a price tag, so I chose not to be too inventive with lunch other than to tack on a tomato-basil soup. And when it arrived, I realized I might be pretty damn smart after all.
The soup emitted an enticing smell even before I lifted a spoonful to my face. I can’t say I’ve ever had a better bowl, its heat punctuating perfectly the thick consistency and savory flavor on a dismal rainy day. The only downside was that I didn’t realize just how gargantuan the main course about to arrive would be.
The bread bowl is a sight to behold, a soft and chewy creation that still somehow holds its firm shape against any manner of sauce. As the rich Alfredo and chunks of gorgonzola melted into it, the bread earned its rightful place as part of the dish. Even as I enjoyed each bite, particularly the crumbled sausage with the pasta, I couldn’t help but think of other arrangements. Maybe the sweet sausage would be better with a red sauce, or maybe I should’ve added mushrooms as I had considered originally.
But each time I swirled my fork in the noodles or tore off a piece of the bowl, I thought less in terms of regrets and more about a second trip to experiment again.
“Did everything come out the way we wanted, love?” my server, who was probably about my age, asked.
Yes, yes it did.
Even though I aimed for somewhere to eat more off the beaten path, almost every parking spot around Giannos was full and the dining area maintained a somewhat noisy, upbeat feel. Six aging “Ladies Who Lunch,” as a friend calls them, ate at a table next to me, offering two strangers their unused coupons to the restaurant as they left. The bar, a somewhat more chic, wooden corner of the room, remained empty, but looked alluring for an evening rendezvous.
I tried to finish the bread bowl as Frank Sinatra cooed across the speakers, but I had met my match. Especially after devouring the starter soup.
Visit Giannos at 1124 Eastchester Drive (HP) or at giannoshp.com.