International Dining 2011: Gemelli Ristorante

Gemelli Ristorante
East Main Street, Babylon Village
Casual and Classic Italian

You could spend a lifetime eating your way through Italian restaurants on The Island, but how many can claim authenticity? At Gemelli, guests are struck by the genuineness of the place right off the bat: Quiet Italian music plays from speakers while patrons speaking in Italian at the bar sip from an indigenous wine list. The house is fashioned after a Mediterranean villa with cream walls recalling plaster, gently-hued exposed brick, terra cotta floor tiles and sea foam painted atrium. Owned and operated by Giorgio and Patricia Cosentino, progeny of the immigrant elders who have held forth at the food market and Italian epicure under the Gemelli name in the village since 1988, the restaurant is true to the family legacy and the cultural influences they picked up while living in “the old country.”

The secret to great classic Italian? According to Giorgio, Gemelli is about simple food done right: “Italian food is one of the best known in the world, one of the most loved, but one of the simplest.” A walk through the modest kitchen reveals a limited assortment of ingredients—the old fashioned staples of tomatoes, onions, garlic, mushrooms and flaked seasonings are front and center. The pans are marked with the dings of use. There’s no pomp of exotic elements or experimental cross-cultural earmarks back here. And it carries back to the plates served out front. Most sauces, like the pomodoro, are made to order. The secret, Giorgio says, is “you have to listen to it. You have to feel it.”

Star Ingredients:
Gemelli’s zucchini: Giorgio’s dad brought it home from Italy 17 years ago. Every season they pluck the fruit from the Babylon garden, dry the seeds, store them for the winter and replant. And of course, garlic (culled from one consistent source), tomatoes and basil.

Best Bites:
Zucchini Flowers Appetizer
(from that famed plant)

As big as zeppelins, the flowers are stuffed with ricotta, spinach and romano cheese (for the salt), finished with parmesan and gently sautéed. The waiter will joke through his accent, “the weight watchers’ special.”

Ziti with Pomodoro Sauce
Plum tomato sauce made to order with sautéed garlic, a touch of “pasta water” (the starch thickens the sauce) and a dash of salt. AKA: pizza margherita with pasta and basil.

Fettuccini with Veal Shank
Braised in onion, carrots and celery until melt in your mouth perfection. Red sauce and basil to finish.

Shrimp Scampi
The shrimp are complemented with asparagus and plated over risotto and lemon.

Granny Smith apples peeled and pan seared with butter and cinnamon.

Don’t ask, just get some. Giorgio makes it there.