Italian restaurant Giuseppe’s serves up rich family recipes

Italian restaurant Giuseppe’s serves up rich family recipes

Italian restaurant Giuseppe’s serves up rich family recipes
December 07
10:00 2018

By Brennan Dufrene

In a wave of energy, Giuseppe Brownell strides in from the kitchen. His Italian accent overlays each story about his upbringing in Umbria, a city located in central Italy. 

Brownell is an Italian immigrant-turned-restaurant owner and the mastermind behind Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant on Locust Street. Nestled inside of a historic Victorian home, Giuseppe’s feels all at once overtly authentic and recognizably Denton.

“I didn’t realize [cooking] was my passion until after I went to college when I started working at an Italian restaurant, and I found out that’s what I really wanted to do,” Brownwell said.

Brownell found his stride with his own brand of Italian cuisine after taking ideas and dishes from his family, his experience in Italian kitchens and the proliferation of online and TV resources like the Food Network. For Brownell, not only must a restaurateur understand what product they can handle, but they also have to be present.

“You have to know your limitations,” Brownell said. “I used to have another restaurant over in Grapevine, but you can’t be in two places at once, and I’m a hands-on kind of guy. The best thing I did was choose to stay in Denton.”

Giuseppe Brownell is a first generation Italian immigrant. After moving to the United States, Brownell worked in Italian restaurants until eventually opening Giuseppe’s in 1996. Will Baldwin

Perhaps it is the Umbrian upbringing, or maybe it is growing up as an immigrant in North Texas from the age of 10. Regardless, Brownell has a special focus as he talks: He is interested in what is going on in his kitchen.

“We’re obviously pretty well supported here in Denton,” Brownell said. “We’ve been here for 24 years. That’s a long time.”

With many token Italian restaurants taking up residence in the U.S., Giuseppe’s aims to stand out as an enduring nod to an older generation of bold flavors that can only be truly Italian. 

Another key to Brownell’s success is his fresh sauces in each dish. Rather than having one “mother sauce” from which all other sauces come from, a common restaurant strategy, Giuseppe’s makes all of their sauces to order. Brownell said the pasta is also sourced from a high-quality vendor.

Giuseppe’s has an array of seafood, something few landlocked American-Italian restaurants venture. With dishes like ravioli aragosta (lobster ravioli) and salmone affumicato (smoked salmon), Giuseppe’s becomes an Italian adventure with each visit.  

Catering to the community

Brownell has realized there is a growing vegetarian and vegan population in Denton, and has made specific dishes catered to them. Giuseppe’s now boasts a pasta alla piccatta, a grilled mushroom sandwich and even off-the-menu items like the melanzane alla griglia, or grilled eggplant.

“The Portobello mushroom is thick, and it’s served with a garlic butter,” Brownell said. “It’s like a vegetarian steak, really.”

Brownell enjoys supporting Denton’s burgeoning art scene as well. One of the pieces in the restaurant is a large portrait of Brownell’s three daughters, which was painted by a local artist.

“I used to paint in high school,” Brownell said. “Now all the paintings go in the kitchen. That’s where the creativity goes.”

Although some of the artwork is part of Brownell’s personal collection, many of the pieces that adorn the walls are from local artists and are for sale.

“I don’t take any cut off [the sale of] the paintings, and I’m glad to help some artists sell their work,” Brownell said. “Besides, it gives me free decor.”

A Devotion to Comfort, Cuisine, and Customers

Giuseppe Brownell works in his kitchen preparing garlic butter for the upcoming dinner rush. Will Baldwin

The difficulty and stress of running a restaurant is not always overwhelming.

 “You know, it hasn’t quite gotten to the point where it seems like work,” Brownell said. “Somedays it feels like a chore — but never work.”

The key difference is passion, Brownwell said. Brownell exudes a passionate interest in his business, making it feel more like a lengthy project in the creation of authentic cuisine than a livelihood. Customers, like Ralph Rosprim, definitely take notice of Brownell’s dedication.

“I have always found [Brownell] to be a nice guy, easy to talk to, very attentive to his customers [and someone who] strives to deliver good quality service and menu items,” Rosprim said.

Giuseppe’s guests are not the only ones who have enjoyed the cuisine. Allison Myers, 20, has been working at Giuseppe’s for about a year and finds Brownell to be an approachable figure in the neighborhood. 

“[Brownell] is just so familial,” Myers said. “You walk in, and it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing casual clothes. You just find a fine-dining experience while you’re comfortable. That’s why people celebrate their anniversaries here, why customers are so loyal and they come back year after year.”

Featured Image: Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant is located at the corner of North Locust Street and Hann Street in Denton. Will Baldwin

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Amy Roh

Amy Roh

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