Well-known at their Herndon location for their homemade sauces and tender-as-velvet pastas, the new Piero's Corner in Fairfax opened Wednesday for dinner service only. The new Fairfax Piero's Corner, located at the old Carlos O'Kelly's spot on Main Street, offers weekly wine tastings and nightly dinner specials paired with selected wines.
It is the food that makes this restaurant spectacular. The calamari appetizer is light-as-air and tender-crisp, served with a zippy marinara sauce ($8). Order the large bowl of fragrant white wine-steamed Prince Edward Island mussels with crushed lemon, parsley, and crushed San Mazrzano tomatoes, served with garlic crostino, for $10. It is perfect for lunch with a glass of white wine. The wine list is extensive, and many offering are served by the glass.
Mary's Lobster Bisque, named for loyal customer Mary Dorrzapf, demonstrates that the chef does his homework in making a proper base from lobster shells. You do not get this depth in flavor unless you make it the old-fashioned way.
Chef Gian Piero also imports his flours for his pizza crusts from Italy, so his homemade pizzas are especially light, crispy and flavorful. The bruschettas are delightful, cooked in his centerpiece brick oven, and are large enough to be shared for a lunch with a salad or soup. Fresh, fragrant chopped basil leaves are the "pixie dust" on these toasted slices.
Nightly seafood specials are a good choice, as they have that "extra" attention to detail. My favorite dish was the Lobster-stuffed ravioli with vodka cream sauce, topped with lump crab meat and mozzarella ($16). I grabbed the last morsels of bread in our basket to sop up the last of the vodka cream sauce, it was that good. My other favorite is the three-cheese ravioli with caramelized onions, cremini mushrooms and melted mozzarella cheese.
Portions are large, so if you do not want to get into a huge amount of food, split a Mesclun green salad, split an appetizer, and you can even split a homemade pasta dish. That will give you enough room to even split a dessert, and his homemade tiramisu is fabulous. Slow down and savor every bite of this dessert with a cup of his fresh-brewed cappuccino.
The owners, Master Chef Gian Piero Mazzi and Jon Soto have transformed the interiors of a tired, former Mexican restaurant into an upscale, warm Tuscan-style interior, with dark gleaming tables, a large brick-oven inside the front entrance, and even a separate wine tasting area for relaxing on spacious sofas.
Soon there will be live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and a special "late night" menu of homemade pizzas, brushettas and light fare until 2 a.m. Lunch service will begin in the coming weeks.
Chef Gian Piero completely gutted the old kitchen and installed a modern expanded kitchen and wine cellar. His coolers and storage areas are set up for a larger-scale operation than in Herndon, as he specializes in private dinners, bridal rehearsal dinners, and catered events in this new restaurant.
"The interior design of this restaurant, with many rooms, is perfect for private parties at the same time we are seating our regular patrons" said Jon Soto.
The food is similar to the Herndon location, and while some Fairfax residents may be viewing this as "just another Italian restaurant," once they taste the food, and attend a wine tasting, and get to know the chef, they will quickly realize why Gian's Herndon location vaulted into popularity with locals.
"We want you to feel like you are family here," said Gian. Ask to talk to the chef, and he will gladly come out and greet you and remember you on your next visit. Likewise, his savvy manager, Rachael, will make sure that you are taken care of in your service.
For those on Gluten-free diets, the chef offers a gluten-free pasta and pizza (flour imported from Italy). They can easily substitute this flour upon request, and guide you in other gluten-free selections.
If they are not particularly busy, you can talk to the chef before the meal and go "off menu" and create something just for you for a special occasion, and pair it with a recommended wine. Again, this is a chef that pays attention and wants to get to know his customers.