Wallet alert! Giardina’s (pronounced with a hard G) is significantly more expensive than most Roadfood restaurants; and it is, in its unique way, more formal. Service is polished. Tables are outfitted with thick white cloths and snazzy Viking cutlery. The wine collection – stored in state-of-the-art Viking wine cellars – is impressive. A meal for two, with good wine, easily hits triple digits.
Why do we recommend it here at Roadfood.com? For all its high-class trappings, the dining experience is downhome Delta, meals served in private compartments just like Prohibition days. Much of the kitchen’s repertoire is upscale cotton country fare, including hefty steaks and elegant pompano, hot tamales, and a bevy of dishes that reflect the powerful influence of Italian immigrants on Greenwood’s cuisine. These include garlicky salads, house-made sausages, and a wonderful olive bread made with anchovies and Parmesan cheese.
Giardina’s in fact has humble roots. It opened in 1936 as a fish market. Gradually it became popular among cotton growers, known for those private booths where bootleg booze could be drunk in secrecy. As King Cotton lost its economic hegemony late in the 20th century, Giardina’s fortunes waned along with those of Greenwood, the South’s Cotton Capital, and eventually, it closed its doors. But then the Viking Range Corporation came to town in 1989 and the presence of the stove maker turned everything around. The Mississippi Heritage Trust awards Viking has won for rehabilitation of local properties include the transformation of the historic Irving Hotel from a ratty embarrassment to a stylish boutique hotel called The Alluvian. For us, the Alluvian’s greatest attraction, beyond its feather beds and silken sheets, is the fact that it is the new home of Giardina’s, a Mississippi Delta legend.