With all there is to occupy and distract along Main Street in Manayunk, Gemelli on Main, 4161 Main St. , has managed to stand out and win over diners in short order. During our trip to the new French-influenced Italian restaurant, we were impressed by Gemelli’s seductive modern atmosphere and by how many diners could be overheard raving about the food.
It didn’t take us long to join the chorus.
It was apparent from the start that chef Clark Gilbert pays a lot of attention to composing his dishes so that every ingredient shines equally. It doesn’t hurt that the upstairs bar has an arsenal of wines, all chosen to perfectly compliment Gemelli’s dishes. It’s safe to say that if you can’t close the deal with a stroll down this particular piece of real estate and dinner and drinks here, it’s never going to happen.
For the appetizers, both the beef tartare ($16) and the calamari salad ($13) were nothing short of stellar. The tartare had a substantial but silky texture and was seasoned perfectly with Parmesan and cockle vinaigrette. The calamari salad was light, colorful and delectable with minimal dressing.
The closest Gemelli gets to an over-the-top decadent dish is the arancini ($12), an appetizer of fried risotto balls in a romesco sauce. It’s probably the most brash and aggressive dish on the menu, spiking the ball on your palette every step of the way: It’s delicious.
Gemelli’s attention to detail carries over to the entrées as well, with familiar dishes refined to perfection. Scallops and risottos are a dime a dozen in this town, but Gemelli’s sea scallops ($29) were a flawless epic win with an excellent salt-cod risotto.
The ravioli ($27) was another stunning dish. These huge specimens were bursting with a hearty stuffing of crabmeat and artichoke, all of which rests over a spinach and brown-butter sauce that is both rustic and a wonderfully left-of-center choice for pasta of this caliber.
The special of the evening was a shrimp and lobster cantalone with pork belly ($29), another wonderful dish that forgoes heavy saucing to allow the ingredients to sing.
Gemelli’s desserts also puts an interesting twist on the familiar. The Italian cheesecake was a surprise, with a perfectly fluffy density and flavored with orange and a reduction of rosemary and fennel. The coconut risotto was another winner, with a creamy texture and a sweetness that never was in danger of overpowering the distinct flavor of the fresh coconut topping.
Yeah, we need to hang out in Manayunk more often.