As a foodie who happens to be a dietitian, I am always happy to see new, healthy restaurants popping up in the Triangle. That’s one reason I was so excited to hear about Giardino Gourmet Salads, which opened only six months ago in the Harrison Square Shopping Center in Cary. I was lucky enough to speak with owner Mario Diaz, who moved here with his family from Florida to open the restaurant. Mario and his wife Tania were living in Florida, running a gas station, when almost two years ago, Mario was diagnosed with a chronic form of Leukemia. Mario is in good health now, but this scare made Mario and Tania want to live a healthier life. On their venture to a healthier life, they came across Giardino, which started in Florida, and loved all of the amazing food they provided and the healthy values behind the franchise. Soon, they decided they wanted to open their own Giardino, and they decided that the Triangle was the best place to do that. Now, six months in, Mario and Tania are using all of the customer service and business skills they acquired in their last venture for something totally different, but they’re doing a great job.
As I walked into Giardino, I was greeted by a menu that practically took up the entire wall. There is definitely no shortage of choices here, and if it is your first time, you’ll want a few minutes to go over all of the different options they provide. The salads, which make up the large bulk of the menu, are listed in order of popularity. If you don’t see one you like, you can make your own as well. As if that weren’t enough to choose from, you can also make any of the salads into a wrap. You can also choose from grain bowls and sandwiches filled with deli salads.
I decided to go with the small (Piccolo) Habanero ($6.95), which was second on the list. Mario told me not to expect any heat in this salad. It isn’t named after the pepper, its named after Havana Cuba. This salad had a base of Romaine Greens, Garbanzo Beans, Plum Tomato, Avocado, Cucumber, Plantain Chips, and a Citrus Cilantro Vinaigrette. I also opted to add Tropical Chicken ($1.75), which seems to be the most popular protein option, to my salad. While Mario made my salad, he also let me try some of the other protein options – Curry Turkey and Lemon-Dill Seafood. Both were excellent, but I personally loved the taste of the Curry Turkey the best. One employee told me that the Curry Turkey goes great with the Thai Thai salad, so I’ll have to try that next time.
When Mario brought me my salad, I was surprised to see how large the small was. It was definitely enough for me, and I had plenty leftover as well. The salad itself was crisp and fresh. I was surprised at how much I loved the nice crunch that the Plantain Chips gave; this was probably my favorite part. The Tropical Chicken was also a great choice. The subtle sweetness of the chicken really added to the overall theme of this particular salad. While I was stuffed from the salad, Mario also gave me some Candied Pecans, which, while not quite as healthy as my salad, was the perfect sweet ending.
Giardino is also available for catering, and is the perfect workplace lunch. You can chose from Salad Bowls, Sandwich Platters, or Wrap Platters. If you’re a frequent Giardino customer you can also download their app to accumulate points and receive special promotions. Mario said that their goal at Giardino is to provide tons of healthy options, and they are definitely reaching that goal. With countless salad options and fresh food, everyone will find their healthy fix at Giardino.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to try certain products. This meal or items are usually comped, as these was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.
Melissa Guido is currently a dietetic intern in the Triangle area. She studied nutrition at NC State and Meredith College. Her favorite part about nutrition is showing people that healthy food can be exciting and delicious. Melissa loves traveling and learning about how food fits into different cultures. In her free time she loves trying new restaurants, cooking, and obsessing over her dogs. Follow her on Instagram @made2order and at www.madeorder.wordpress.com.