Clark Gilbert says a lot of things that make sense when he talks about his Manayunk eatery and one thing that doesn’t. He calls it “uncool” and it’s anything but that.
He does have the “quietly sophisticated” part right though. And if there is one thing that should be put on your to do list this spring, it should be to visit Gemelli on Main.
Gemelli on Main is chef/owner Gilbert’s second restaurant. He opened his first 45-seat BYOB in Narberth in 2009. His 70-seat Manayunk spot is urban upscale and wonderfully understated. He also has a liquor license here and the specialty cocktails are laden with local summertime harvest and flowing with top-shelf liquor.
A visit to Gemelli on Main is a treat for every sense. It’s eye candy, offering three levels for dining, each with its own vibe. The restaurant features a cozy mezzanine with a gas fireplace. Patrons may also position themselves near the open kitchen to watch, learn, and even interact with chefs, or meander to the upstairs bar were a very-cool mirror that switches to a flat-screen TV hangs above.
The menu doesn’t offer pages and pages of mind-boggling variations of the same dish. Clark’s unassuming menu offers a good variety of well-thought out, tantalizing dishes for both lunch and dinner.
I went for dinner and started with a creamy pumpkin soup, which changes daily, followed by a duck entree. I’m a formidable fan of duck and this was undoubtedly the most succulent one, ever so gently prepared with cranberries and almonds, ever laid upon my table.
Other menu highlights include a vitello tonnato (a tuna tartare with crispy veal sweetbreads in a tonnato sauce) and beef cheeks with celery root risotto, cippolini onions in beef jus. There’s also a choice of pasta and salad for the red gravy, and an intriguing assortment of appetizers and alluring desserts.
The menu is the product of Gilbert’s search for a signature style, wonderfully apparent in some of his non-traditional dishes. The chef takes pride in the fact that he didn't attend a traditional culinary program.
"Going to school is great," he says, "but I learned a lot reading about food, traveling and eating. And I learned how to work in a kitchen when I workedin a kitchen.”
Call it a breath of fresh spring air for your taste buds. Or, better yet, call the restaurant and make a reservation.
If you go: Gemelli on Main is located at 4161 Main Street, Manayunk; hours are Sundays and Mondays 5 - 9 p.m., Tuesdays -Thursdays 5 -10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 5 – 11 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday lunch 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.; call 215-487-1230, or visit www.gemellionmain.com.