There’s no other way to describe my reaction to the news of Gemelli’s opening. Hand-kneaded, thrown dough, wood-fired, handmade pasta… the words bring little ripples of anticipation.
I’m a traditionalist when it comes to food. Yes, I enjoy experimentation, but let’s not kid ourselves that incongruent ingredients improve a regional dish! And let’s not pretend that labour-saving devices and shortcuts lead to more flavour!
Take pizza (or pasta) for example. Pizza would have to rank as one of our most ‘abused’ traditional dishes. Shuddering and dripping, ‘pizzas’ emerge from metal conveyor belts, are flounced into cardboard boxes to drop, sagging and spent, on dinner tables across Australia. Don’t even start me on cardboard-like biscuit bases, pineapple or eggplant toppings…
I’m a fan of kneaded, hand-thrown dough, prepared with love, kissed with the smoke of a wood-fired oven as the sauce simmers on the stove. It’s not just about the lingering depth of flavor, the lack of preservatives and additives; it’s also about the notion of ‘slow’. In my eyes, there’s a generosity of spirit spent on hours of preparation, which is rewarded with an equal measure of flavour.
I’m sitting in Gemelli as the setting sun peeks through the trees outside. Lorikeets squawk in the distance, stilettos and suits assemble next door for a drink, as I ask one of Gemelli’s owner/managers Paul Carney about his restaurant’s ‘point of difference’.
“It is all about the oven,” he tells me, pointing to the huge wood-fired pizzaiolo oven, which has been imported from Italy, “and the traditional recipes which we learned from our Nonna.”
Coming from an extended family of excellent cooks, it is little surprise that the restaurant is a family affair, with relatives travelling up from Griffith to help with the renovation.
The site, which formerly housed a couple of unsuccessful restaurants in succession, has been transformed into a modern trattoria, complete with an old Vespa. The rustic bricks, brushed Italian granite bar and open ceiling are indications of what to expect in the cuisine: rich in flavour and texture, it’s traditionally made food to be enjoyed in a contemporary setting.
Paul, one of four brothers, shares the management of Gemelli with his younger siblings, identical twins James and Alec (hence the name ‘gemelli’ – ‘twins’ in Italian). With a degree in Marketing, Paul has taken time out from his own career overseas, where his portfolio included the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics. He’s a guiding hand to the 21 year old twins, James and Alec, who have worked in and managed restaurants through their teens. They’ve brought to Gemelli some of the best chefs they encountered along the way, all of them Italian!
Their family originated in Abruzzo, a region that produces some of the best food in Italy. Abruzzo has a varied cuisine due to its geography, touching both mountains and sea, but Gemelli’s menu features only a few of its diverse regional dishes.
“We’ve cut down the menu to our favourite dishes,” Paul says, “but we’re making them as traditionally as we can, with as few ingredients as possible; more like Italians would make them.”
There’s a wider Italian influence evident as well, drawing on the rich tapestry of regional cuisines the family discovered in their recent travels to Positano, the Amalfi Coast, Rome and Naples. Entrées include Antipasto platter, Fichi E Prosciutto (Figs wrapped in prosciutto) and Aranchini, as well as the familiar but beautifully presented Bruscetta – cherry tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella dizzled with olive oil and fresh basil. Mains include Pastas, Risotto, Pizza and Secondi, including favourites such as Vitello Saltimbocca, Spaghetti Marinara and Gnocchi Quattro Formaggi.
The consistent theme is traditional ‘handmade’. Sugo, as well as pasta including gnocchi, is handmade daily, pasta dough hand thrown by pizza chef Daniele, coincidentally also from Abruzzo. In a big nod to heritage, there’s even a pizza named after the guys’ maternal grandparents, Di Nicolai.
“That’s why we decided to open a restaurant here,” Paul says. “My nonni (grandparents) live here and we always came to the Gold Coast for our holidays.”
The venue is fully licensed, the wine list concise but with an interesting mix of boutique Australian wines and Italian varietals. However, there are only three red wines available by the glass (two Sangiovese and a Pinot Noir); a scant choice without BYO to accompany the excellent food. Dining in a party of four, we enjoy the excellent Westend Estate 3 Bridges Durif from Griffith, the bold ‘shiraz on steroids’ not well known in Queensland. You could also settle for some Italian spirits, cocktails, or beer on tap.
We’ve dined at Gemelli on several occasions with friends who’ve lived in both Italy and New York and the praise has been unanimous. There’s plenty of room on the Gold Coast for another Italian restaurant, especially one which [ironically] specializes in traditional Italian cuisine and culture, combined with attentive service in a smart new venue. This is the most authentic Italian cuisine we’ve seen in quite some time; almost like a little bit of Italy in Broadbeach!
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