what: praianese salad
where: Il Giorgione, 2406 Devine St., 803-521-5063
Taking all factors into account, Il Giorgione is the best restaurant in Columbia. The food is consistently delicious, and it’s the ultimate neighborhood scene. Nine times out of 10, owner Monica greets you at the door and tells you what her husband George is cooking up in the kitchen. You see at least eight people you know (or will know in a minute), there’s always someone to talk to at the bar, and no one’s sulking, not even the teenagers.
We get along at Il Gio, whether enjoying a shared bruschetta or a round of housemade limoncello at the end of a meal. You know what else? The staff pronounces all the words right, including bruschetta, which is pronounced “brusketta” just so you know they aren’t doing it wrong. George, “Giorgione,” will come out to see how you’re doing and he won’t be offended when your mouth is full. He expects it.
There’s one dish I can never resist. I have it after my first-course pizza (Romana with tomatoes, pecorino Romano, anchovies, capers and oregano), and often our second course of shared pasta (cacio e pepe these days), and possibly a little side course of this summer’s cucumber and avocado gazpacho. The Praianese salad is everything: generous pieces of housemade mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, a pile of piquant arugula, and a healthy serving of tuna. It comes with olive oil and lemon, but ask for balsamic vinegar as well. You’ll be glad you did at the end of your meal, when you use that one delicious piece of toasted bread to soak it all up. And when you’re finished with that, order a limoncello, an espresso with a side of amaro, or housemade gelato or sorbet.
Il Giorgione is open Tuesday and Saturday from 5:30 to 10 p.m., and Wednesday through Thursday all the way through from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., which makes it the perfect place to get a little late afternoon work done and have a snack.