335 Bowery
New York, NY 10003
(212) 505-9100

Lately, my interactions with Speeds have been brunch related and our conversations pretty much fall into the "Guys suck" and "Girls are crazy" variety. That's fun and all, but it's kind of limited. By which I mean, of course, we needed more than just brunch to vent about the opposite sex. Dinner was a necessity.

Two hours of wandering Borders helping Speeds look for books for her students can build up quite an appetite. But it wasn't enough to merely eat. We're New Yorkers. Merely eating is what animals in the woods and suburbanites at the mall do. In New York, half the meal is the atmosphere in which you eat. Speeds suggested Gemma and I'm glad that she did.

Gemma has the atmosphere that only a city restaurant, in a building older than the city it sits in, could pull off. It's dark, but not black. It straddles the line between romantic and old-boys club. Wood and brickwork and iron is everywhere. Instead of piddling little tea lights, massive pillar candles top each table. Candles are everywhere and candelabras with generations of wax creeping to the floor light the way to your table. Like dining in a steakhouse that used to be a monastery. I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me that the place was haunted.

If my dinner with Speeds was any indication, then there's no group that embodies the Gemma standard customer. We're in our late 20s, wearing jeans. The table next to us: mid-30s, tattoos and t-shirts. The table over there: twelve guys in their late 40s in suits. The table next to them: a romantic couple. Next to them: two elderly women. There were also a rather constant stream of short skirts and stiletto boots.

Initially, we were seated at a quaint little table that I wasn't too pleased with for the simple reason that it was impossible to take decent interior photos from its location. Luckily for me, it was right by an emergency exit door that was occasionally mistaken for being the entrance. This led to a few unexpected blasts of frigid air straight down Speeds' back. We were moved to a warmer table with better viewing angles.

Gemma has a good-sized drink menu. Its cocktail list is of the classical variety. Martinis, Manhattans, Gimlets, and so forth. Plus quite the wine list, of course, with lots of wine by the glass. We did not drink, however.

Dinner began with thick slabs of bread and a saucer each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, followed by an order of Fritto Misto, a random collection of zucchini, asparagus, shrimp, scallops, and calamari. Speeds loves fried calamari. This is the perfect appetizer for people who want to be healthy but who know that they just can't pull it off. The omega-3 rich seafood and the dark green veggies imply one thing. The boiling oil and batter imply something entirely other.

Next, we went for an order of Chicken Liver Puree Crostini and Truffle Scented Mushroom Crostini. Speeds was not enamored by either, but I was by both. Crostini is toast with a topping and if you don't like that topping, you're probably ordering the wrong thing. For example, liver pates are an acquired taste... meaning that the first time you try it, you hate it, but you keep eating it because sophisticated people like it and you want to fit in. In this case, the liver was sweet with decidedly bitter aftertaste. It wasn't as dry as some pates are and there was a noticeable hint of garlic and pepper. Not that I have any idea what I'm talking about, but it wasn't bad. The mushroom crostini was excellent and I can't fathom why Speeds didn't like it. Delizioso.

For an entree, Speeds ordered the Artichoke, Parmigiano, Truffle Vinaigrette Salad. This isn't your typical salad. Speeds was expecting the artichoke to sit atop a bed of lettuce. Instead it was the lettuce. Never having been a salad guy ,I can't see ever myself ordering one for dinner if given the option and my sampling left me unimpressed. But she liked it and if this is your thing, then you'll probably like it too. For me, I opted for a pasta dish, the Papardelli with Oxtail Ragu. More tender than a Meg Ryan movie, you'd think that oxtail would pepper more menus. The sauce could have been more plentiful, and I can't give too many points for way it looked dumped onto the plate, but Italian restaurants aren't really known for their presentation. It was a delicious dish and I'm glad I didn't go the tried and true route of gnocchi... though there was a pork chop dish I was seriously considering. Next time.

Dessert time. Two coffees arrived, but that goes without saying. If I were a hiker, I'd probably fill my canteen with the stuff. Speeds ordered the Torta di Cioccolata, a warm chocolate cake with a vanilla gelato. I could set my watch to her dessert choices. If it's not chocolate, then it's tiramisu. If it's not tiramisu, then its chocolate. This cake was a variation of the lava cake, with a normal, brownie-like shell and a moist, gooey inside. I thought it was too dry for my liking, as dark, rich chocolate things usually are, but Speeds schooled me with a "what are you, crazy" look, and I proceeded to dig into my dessert, the Rice Pudding. Some rice puddings come in the soft variety, like a regular pudding. Some come like this one, like a cake. Gemma's rice pudding was served in a citrus glaze and walked the perfect line between sweet and sour. Speeds didn't like it. Whatever. She had her precious chocolate.

Our meal: three appetizers, two entrees, two desserts, two coffees, no drinks, tax and tip totalled $92.

You Might Also Like



The contents of this website/weblog are the property of its author and are protected under the copyright and intellectual property laws of the United States of America. The views expressed within are the opinions of the author. All rights reserved.

Readers are free to copy and distribute the material contained within, but such external use of the author's original material must be properly attributed to the author. Attribution may be through a link to the author's original work. Derivative use is prohibited. The borrower may not alter, transform, or build upon the work borrowed.

The author is free to change the terms of this copyright at any time and without notice. At the written request by the borrower, the author may choose to waive these rights.