My mother’s birthday is on March 14, which fell on a Sunday this year. So, she had her choice of where I would go to pick up her birthday dinner, and she narrowed it down to Teresa’s Place in Jackson and Giannini’s Italian Dinners in Pine Grove. The fact that Giannini’s had salmon on the menu and Teresa’s Place did not quickly convinced her to choose the former.

She ordered salmon with citrus caper sauce on a bed of spinach. Since I had a recent medical procedure that made it harder for me to open my mouth, I decided to order tortellini. I was also drawn to the tortellini because it came with your choice of cream, pesto, or tomato sauce. I chose pesto.

Dinners come with bread and butter as well as your choice of soup or salad. I chose the lentil soup. I also ordered a piece of lemon berry mascarpone cake for myself since my mother is lactose intolerant. (Don’t worry, I bought her a large chocolate birthday cupcake.)

When I called, a cheerful lady took my order and took me it would take 15 to 20 minutes to prepare. I arrived about 20 minutes later and parked in the gravel lot behind the building. I went inside and as I waited in the lobby I saw that my food was already in a vertical stack of Styrofoam boxes within a plastic bag behind the counter.

About 20 seconds later, the woman I talked to on the phone, who I presume is one of the owners, came out of the bar area without a mask to walk behind the counter and process my payment. (Now I can say that she may have been maskless because she was vaccinated.) I told her that I was picking up a birthday dinner for my mother, and the owner told me that to celebrate I could pick one of the Italian chocolate bars on sale in the lobby at no charge.

I gave the owner a nice tip on my credit card slip and was out of the restaurant in a few minutes. After I returned home about 20 minutes later and unpacked our food, we saw that the lentil soup was in a large Styrofoam cup with a plastic lid, and a separate Styrofoam box held about half a loaf of sliced French bread with butter packets and a small lidded cup full of shredded parmesan cheese.

The bread was thinly sliced and pretty easy to eat, and the lentil soup had plenty of lentil beans and was savory without being salty. We both agreed that there was too much bread for two people, but at least my mother was able to use it for dinners and lunch sandwiches.

Giannini's Lentil Soup

My Meal

The pesto tortellini had about 36 cheese-filled tortellini shells deep in pesto sauce with what appeared to be shaved almonds on top. I only found out what the tortellini was filled with when I took a bite of one of the shells and looked inside; the menu didn’t state if the tortellini had meat or cheese.

The tortellini was a bit more tender than the tortellini I bought at the store, and the pesto sauce was both creamy and didn’t have an overwhelming pesto taste. I thought I would have to save some of the tortellini for later, but I was able to eat all of it without any trouble.

The mascarpone cake had powdered sugar on top and a thick strip of cheese between the two layers of lemon cake. The cake itself had large chunks of blueberries and a couple of raspberries. The cake itself was sweet and moist, and the cheese itself was slightly sweet and thick enough to hold the layers together but not so sweet to stick in my throat.

Giannini's Lemon Berry Mascarpone Cake

Mom’s Meal

The large salmon filet came with a few capers on top, two broccoli florets, and a wedge of lemon. The filet sat on top of a bed of spinach leaves, a few more capers, and the citrus caper sauce on the bottom.

My mother doesn’t like capers, so she picked them off the top of the salmon before she placed the filet on her dinner plate. She put the vegetables to the side of the filet on her plate before she started working on the filet.

After the first couple of bites, she said the salmon was okay. After two more bites, she said it was very good. And two bites after that, she said it was excellent.

She didn’t eat all her spinach leaves, which she saved for lunch the next day, but she said the spinach and broccoli were tender and had enough sauce on them to give them a tangy citrus taste.

Giannini's Salmon

The Verdict

My mother said that going to Giannini’s was a great choice for her birthday, and she especially appreciated the dark chocolate bar I selected for her because she was running out of her daily dose of chocolate.

We shine our green light on Giannini’s. The price for our meals, plus the tip, was a little over $55.00.

Want to Try Them?

Giannini’s Italian Dinners is open for dine-in and takeout service from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m Fridays through Sundays. They are located at 19845 State Highway 88 in Pine Grove, which is on the left side of the highway as you drive east up the hill.

If you want to order and/or have questions, you can view Giannini’s menu on their Facebook profile page, e-mail them, or call them at 209-296-7222.

Amador Business Ticker food reviews are adventures in local dining with Editor Eric Butow and his mom.