Giacomo’s: Laidback with a sense of humor

Grade: A

Giacomo’s is a lot of things. It’s a coffee shop, a deli and an artisanal pizza place. It’s somewhere to have a casual date, to catch up on homework or to grab a quick breakfast. For those who live in downtown Bangor, it’s a reliable place to grab a carton of orange juice and a loaf of local chef Massimo Ranni’s bread. To everyone, though, it’s a staple of downtown Bangor.

Most of the wall space in Giacomo’s is taken up by large windows, but there’s one wall dedicated to a huge chalkboard displaying their many offerings of sandwiches, salads and pizzas.

The fenced-in outdoor seating is a nice location to enjoy lunch and a glass of wine on a summer day. It’s a place to find friendly conversation and to go people-watching. Inside, customers have the option of a small granite table or bar-style seating facing one of the many large windows overlooking the hustle and bustle of the city.

Above the deli case hangs a large mural by the late Orono artist Leon Treadwell. While local art in a downtown restaurant isn’t surprising, the content of the piece certainly is — a depiction of Bangor history, the shootout between the FBI and wanted gangsters Al Brady and his gang. It’s a well-done, but certainly graphic, piece that one could find out of place with the cheery atmosphere, but no one seems to mind.

With an eye on the mural, I ordered the prosciutto panini ($9) a well-stuffed sandwich with thin sliced prosciutto, roma tomato, cucumber, peppadew pepper, onion, pea shoots and provolone on toasted ciabatta bread. The sandwich was served with a small bag of potato chips and a crisp mustard pickle, a nod to the restaurant’s deli roots. The veggies all tasted fresh and crisp, adding a variety of textures and flavors to a sandwich that would have been so-so without them.

Coffee is a big part of Giacomo’s. They offer Maine brewed coffee, and have their own well stocked espresso bar. To wash down my sandwich I tried a small iced chai latte, which was very well balanced: just sweet enough, but with no taste of cheap artificial sweeteners. This is a rich drink, though, and not one I’d recommend in a larger size. Combined with the topping of whipped cream, nutmeg and cinnamon, I almost didn’t have room for dessert.

Almost. I couldn’t resist treating myself to the peanut butter chocolate chunk cookie ($2.55). The dessert was jam-packed with huge hunks of chocolate and peanut butter, better than just a candy bar. It’s something I can see myself making a trip to Giacomo’s for again. It was decadent and delicious, and I found myself thinking about the cookie long after my meal was over.

Giacomo’s certainly has a sense of humor. On one window a painting illustrating step-by-step instructions on how to parallel park a car faces the street. It’s a cheeky nod to another moment of downtown Bangor history, when nearly seven years ago a person backed their car into what used to be Top Shelf comics in a parallel parking gone wrong. The cheerful service and upbeat ’80s playlist reflects the light-hearted ambience.

Customers also look forward to tipping their servers. Next to the register is a sign asking customers “Are Eyebrows Considered Facial Hair?” with two cups, one marked “yes” and the other “no” next to a sign reading “tip your answer.” For the record, “yes” was noticeably more popular.

If you find yourself looking for breakfast or lunch in downtown Bangor and are seeking out a laidback yet finely crafted experience at a mid-level price, consider checking out Giacomo’s. Between the food and the atmosphere, it’s become an essential part of the downtown experience for a reason.

 

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