Even with all the great family time (I still can’t believe I’m an uncle!), I was able to check off a year-long to-do from the list. It’s been too long, but I can finally call myself a repeat customer at Gemelli in Narberth, PA. If only I could call myself a regular!
It’s rare I write about a restaurant more than once but in the case of Gemelli, an exception is warranted. It had been almost a year since my last meal at this Italian and French inspired bistro but unlike many places that experience immediate success, Clark Gilbert has managed to maintain the sense of comfort and warmth without a hint of fuss. Keeping true to it’s BYO beginnings, the dining room was once again filled with what seemed like a healthy mix of regulars and newbies creating a buzz that only furthers the excitement of the truly mouth-watering menu.
This time around we shared two appetizers and two entrees. The Calamari Salad balances earthy fingerling potatoes with perfectly cooked squid and is given the brightness and the freshness of olives and a bit of balsamic reduction. The flavors come together perfectly bite my bite as a really great way to start a meal. Sharing this along with the Arancini (fried risotto balls) proved to be a great decision as the lightness of the calamari was appreciated even more within the context of these fantastically fried balls of rich and creamy risotto. The key components to a good arancini are a crispy exterior, a creamy inside, and a great sauce as a resting place. In this case, the romesco absolutely hit the spot!
Continuing on with our entrees, and our bottle of wine (is there anything better than a good byo?) there was less and less true conversation, replaced more and more by “oohs” and “ahhs”. I should have known when we so thoroughly enjoyed the arancini, but the Jumbo Shrimp over Risotto with Peas and Tomato Broth was really exceptional. I know it sounds ridiculous to say, but I’ve become a bit of a risotto snob and it’s rare I find a risotto out to eat that I feel far surpasses my own. Particularly as many restaurants, even some of the best, continue to rely on ingredients over true technique to create the creamy consistency. But this risotto was expertly cooked and was the perfect resting place for the succulent shrimp.
With a menu full of fantastic sounding pasta dishes, it was tough to choose but the Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Garlic Sausage was packed with flavor and delicious to the very last bite as our second entree. Interestingly enough, I have never been a huge fan of ravioli, mainly because the typical preparations tend to be on the boring side. But with the garlic sausage and a healthy portion of stewed peppers and onions, boring would be the last word I used to describe this dish!
Even with all this praise for Clark and his kitchen’s offerings, a meal at Gemelli is truly capped off by the service and the atmosphere. I’ve been thinking more and more about restaurant decor, as it is very tough to define what is good and what is bad. But maybe in Gemelli I have found the answer. Rather than being bombarded with over the top trendy decorations or the contrasting artistic sparsity, Gemelli’s decor is warm, welcoming, and extremely comforting; and with fantastic service, it’s the kind of place that makes you want to be a regular. I know I do!