Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
Somewhere off Kamehameha Hwy on the North Shore of Oahu…
Kahuku, HI 96731
Sorry for the long layoff. It has been a busy few months. So, without further ado…
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck is one of the great treasures on the North Shore of Oahu. Mrs. Chai and I went in January 2010 after getting married on the North Shore.
We invite our guests Mr. Vita, Ms. Nacion, and Mr. and Mrs. Sato to share their experiences with How to Feed a Chaiger for our first roundtable discussion.
Participant Background Information
Mr. Vita – This will be his second appearance on How to Feed a Chaiger. He enjoys Japanese, Italian, and Hawaiian cuisine along with anything fried. The last of the group to try Giovanni’s, Mr. Vita is also the most recent visitor.
Ms. Nacion – The future Mrs. Vita or possibly Mrs. Nacion-Vita. She had Giovanni’s for the first time this past October. The engagement was made official over a hearty serving of garlic shrimp scampi at Giovanni’s. She likes all cuisines but mostly enjoys Japanese and the occasional Thai.
Mr. Sato – He may be know for his animation skills, but he should be known for his man-skills and his expertise in Hawaiian food. His first trip to Giovanni’s was in the mid-nineties. He used to cruise Oahu on his motorcycle and was introduced to Giovanni’s by his friend. His latest trip to Giovanni’s was this past August when he had a break between projects. Mr. Sato enjoys Hawaiian cuisine, both traditional and ‘local’ style foods.
Mrs. Sato – Every official tournament store fears this lady. She anecdotally throws down the PERMABAN hammer on their methodology. She had Giovanni’s for the first time in December 2009 and had it twice with Mr. Sato their last trip back in August. Mrs. Sato likes local-style Hawaiian grinds (ono kine li’dat), Italian, and Japanese food.
Who recommended Giovanni’s to you?
Mr. Vita: Giovanni’s was recommended to me by several people, notably friends at work (Mrs. Sato and Mr. Chai). My fiancée’s brother was also a strong advocate for the popular food truck.
Ms. Nacion: Big Bro Dee. He used to fly out to Hawaii 5x a year and visit friends. He surfs and after hitting the waves they crave Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. He swears that it’s THE BEST. He actually requested and begged me to take some to-go and fly it back to the mainland. That was just not possible.
Mr. Sato: Best friend in Hawaii.
Mrs. Sato: Pretty much everyone I talked to who’s been there! There’s a few shrimp trucks around, and I’ve driven up to the North Shore before, but for a long time it was just this tiny little truck on the side of the road. It’s got the nice roof and eating area now, but it was a lot smaller before. I think I would just pass it because I either wasn’t hungry at the time, or I just didn’t realize that was THE Giovanni’s truck!
Mr. Chai: I heard about Giovanni’s from the Satos. Since Mrs. Chai and I were getting married at the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore, Giovanni’s was less than 10 minutes away.
Mrs. Chai: Yelp!
What did you order at Giovanni’s?
Mr. Vita: I ordered two plates: the number 1 (traditional shrimp scampi with two scoops of rice) and the number 4 (garlic fried wiener with rice). What an investment. Microsoft could finally catch up to Apple with this acquisition.
Ms. Nacion: The scampi plate and the garlic hot dog to share between me and my man.
Mr. Sato: Garlic butter shrimp. Never ordered anything else since.
Mrs. Sato: The lemon butter shrimp. Mr. Sato usually gets the scampi, so if I feel like garlic-y goodness, I’ll just steal some off his plate.
Mr. Chai: We went twice, and between the two trips, we tried everything on their simple menu. The garlic shrimp scampi, the lemon butter shrimp, the spicy shrimp, and the garlic hot dog with a bun and with rice.
Mrs. Chai: EVERYTHING!
How does the shrimp at Giovanni’s compare to others that you have had?
Mr. Vita: Completely incomparable. Aside from Mom’s (which is free, making it infinitely better) Giovanni’s is well beyond any other shrimp scampi dish I’ve tried. The shrimp is fresh, perfectly cooked and not overly seasoned. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Ms. Nacion: Giovanni’s sauce is what makes their plate. Lots of heavy garlic and butter. Ingredients were simple but flavorful. The rice was cooked perfectly, nice and fluffy. It went well with the garlicky-lemon butter sauce. A freshly squeezed lemon wedge adds a touch of freshness while cutting through all that yummy grease.
The garlic hot dog was OK. It was basically a garlic flavored hot dog over rice. Then again, I prefer hot dogs in buns rather than with rice. I was satisfied with the shrimp.
Mr. Sato: Honestly, haven’t tried the ‘other’ trucks or shrimp shacks. Maybe just knowing Giovanni’s was the original, made me think there was no comparison and everyone else would be just copies.
Mrs. Sato: It pretty much blows everyone else away. 😉
Mr. Chai: Unlike Mr. Vita and Ms. Nacion, I did not taint my Hawaiian shrimp truck legacy by eating at Macky’s. Giovanni’s is the only shrimp truck that I have been to and it will be the only one I go to.
Mrs. Chai: Da best eva, brah.
What do you love about Giovanni’s?
Mr. Vita: It’s rare that something so highly recommended can actually meet, let alone exceed expectations, but that is exactly what Giovanni’s has done. I came in expecting tons, and left with a much higher opinion of this icon. That’s probably what I love most about Giovanni’s.
Ms. Nacion: Their sauce!!! Garlic and butter in every bite.
Mr. Sato: Tasty shrimp dishes out the back of a beat up truck in the country side of Oahu? Simple pleasures.
Mrs. Sato: Aside from the shrimp itself, which is a no-brainer… it’s nice to just go out there to that side of the island and hang out for a while, enjoying a good plate (or two) of fresh shrimp. It’s on the side of the road, open-air, and feels like a family potluck. My kind of lunch!!
Mr. Chai: The way the truck looks, Giovanni’s is everything my mom would hate. Fortunately, she went with all her less high-maintenance relatives and could not back out after she saw the truck. She usually prejudges meals based on appearance but even she came back with high reviews for Giovanni’s. Also, where else can you get a hot dog cooked in garlic butter served hot with rice?
Mrs. Chai: How ghetto is that truck?! Don’t judge a shrimp by the truck.
Any advice or recommendations for someone about to try Giovanni’s for the first time?
Mr. Vita: Two things: 1) bring a water bottle, or a bunch of wet naps. You’re going to get dirty. 2) Try another shrimp truck before going to Giovanni’s. A frame of reference always helps, and there are plenty of shrimp trucks along Kamehameha Hwy (the route to Giovanni’s). I’m sure they are all good, but you will see why Giovanni’s is THE best.
Ms. Nacion: One can enjoy a trip to Giovanni’s as long as you love shrimp and garlic and you’re not on a diet. There are two locations. The first and original truck is located in Kahuku. It is a bit of a drive from the cousin Truck in Hale’iwa. We trekked out to the original location because hey, it is the ORIGINAL.
Order their shrimp scampi. It’s what was recommended to me by the majority of Yelpers and past Giovanni Truck goers.
There is also a spicy version. From what I heard it’s seasoned with tabasco and very spicy. I like some heat too, but I’m more of Siracha girl and not so much a Tabasco fan so I didn’t try the spicy scampi. It’s nice if you have a friend to go with so you can share plates and taste the flavor of both the spicy and regular scampi.
Go early and go hungry! Go for a swim or surf up the state beaches on the North Shore then head out to the shrimp trucks. Definitely get there before it starts to get dark, because come sunset, they’re closed. It’s messy to eat since the shrimp is not peeled so grab lots of napkins and bring wet naps to battle the butter-garlic-fingers. Bring some gum/breath mints to calm the intense garlic breath! For those of you with GI (gastro-intestinal) aka stomach sensitivity to Garlic, I suggest you pre-medicate with Beano or take Tums afterwards.
Mr. Sato: Relatively hard to find if you don’t have a gps, I guess. You keep driving and driving, thinking you probably missed it. Once you see the shrimp farm and other shrimp stands, you know you’re getting close. Don’t panic, you can’t miss the truck.
Take a good dump or long pee before going. The two miserable looking outhouse-like bathrooms they have were locked and out of service on our last trip there. Either that or make sure you know the nearby Haleiwa town well, so you can drive there afterwards to relieve yourself.
Handwipes, sanitizer and papertowels; bring one form of these as eating shrimp is messy. I see people going up to the truck to ask for more napkins all the time, since they don’t leave a dispenser for self service. Pain in the butt. If the afforementioned bathrooms are broken, don’t count on being able to wash your hands. Tables get all nasty after a while with people spiling shrimp juice all over, so you’ll need those same papertowels/napkins to wipe up the mess the previous pricks left behind.
Sharpie. The truck is one big billboard for customers to write their names. When we went, the sharpie they had for use was either missing or near-dried. BYOS(Bring Your Own Sharpie) if you want to make your mark.
Mrs. Sato: Don’t fall out of your seat when you taste how incredibly awesome the shrimp is!! 😉 Oh yeah, and bring Wet Naps or something to wipe your hands with. Unpeeled shrimp + butter/garlic sauce = MESSY BUT OH SO DELICIOUS TIMES!
Mr. Chai: The truck gets extremely crowded on the weekends and during lunchtime. Plan your trip carefully to arrive before or after the lunch rush during the weekdays.
Mrs. Chai: I tink dem oder trucks no mo’!
And there you have it. Everything you need to know about the wonders of Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck from 6 eating experts. Now go and try it for yourself!