Above: XXL Baked stuffed potato with crème fraiche and crispy bacon
Most of the best restaurants evolve over time, keeping up with people’s changing tastes in food and décor. But they also take care not to shift too dramatically or remove longtime favorites from the menu and risk putting off regulars. So Gabriele’s Italian Steakhouse has morphed into Gabriele’s of Greenwich with a light hand. The handsome clubby bar with its big leather chairs and fireplace, which may be the coziest spot to have a drink in Greenwich, has been left untouched. The dining room will undergo only minor tweaks (new fabrics and art). And you can still indulge in the classics like clams oreganata, porterhouse with all the trimmings and parmesan truffle fries. Executive Chef Joe Giordano has refreshed the menu by adding new flavors and lighter options. Though he has always cooked up creative specials, the new menu emphasizes the restaurant’s variety—much more than just steakhouse standards—with seafood, pasta and salads, and seasonal fare in the mix.
Though you may notice a livelier, funkier playlist in the background, the overall experience here remains the same: It’s a place to be pampered. A valet takes your car at the back door, which is actually the main entrance, and you walk into a grand entry hall with a fireplace and double marble stairs leading up to the newly renovated event space. Inside the dining room, all tables are comfortable, but the coveted spots are the alcoves—nooks with their own light fixtures that feel cozy and private—and the oversized rounded banquettes for larger groups. At a recent dinner, our party of six settled into a table with a sofa on one side and regular chairs on the other, with views into the wine room (it houses 2,000 bottles and accommodates parties up to eighteen). Several attentive servers helped us and kept the meal flowing throughout.
Among the new starters, the Asian-inspired bacon appetizer is a must-try. Of course, they had me at “bacon,” but this is no ordinary pork. It’s a thick slab perfectly charred on the edges and treated to a maple-soy glaze with veggies and farro, a modern take on fried rice. On the lighter side, the new shaved fennel salad opens the meal with a bright blend of slightly bitter endive and radicchio balanced by sweet dried cherries and tangy ricotta salata. For seafood I preferred the classic Blue Point oysters and shrimp cocktail to the crudo of fluke with mandarin slices, which was fresh but a bit bland. From the specials, a spring roll filled with crabmeat and bamboo shoots was old-school Chinese-food heaven, if a little greasy.
All of our mains were sizeable and very tasty. The aged prime meats stand out, and we splurged on the Tomahawk bone-in rib eye, a gargantuan steak attached to a bone wider than the gentleman devouring it, and Wagyu beef, which has amazing rich flavor with a darkened crust but was very tender and pink inside, served with bok choy and peppers. A carnivore’s dream! No sauce is needed but you can add a peppercorn, truffle butter or melted gorgonzola. Mustard-crusted rack of lamb is also a treat of tender meat with a fruit-forward sauce, a pear-mint puree. Risotto changes seasonally, and the latest is lobster risotto with butternut squash, corn and leeks, a satisfying combination. Heritage chicken in a tasty au jus sauce falls off the bone and is served with broccoli rabe and potatoes, like a deconstructed Sunday roast. Two new chicken entrées have also been added to the menu, rounding out the options. For sides, if you’re a traditionalist the XXL baked stuffed potato with bacon blended in lives up to its name—it’s enough to feed a small village. But the charred broccoli was my favorite; it has great texture and a kick from parmesan and red pepper.
Though you’re not likely to be hungry for dessert, the options may prove too tempting. Try the chocolate halo, a crispy lace cookie “halo” with ice cream or the kid-fave—fried Oreos with a bowl of ice cream. The key lime pie with coconut ice cream and berry coulis on top is as good as versions we’ve had in Florida. And for those who prefer to end a meal with an after-dinner drink, there’s a leather club chair by the fire with your name on it.
RAISING THE BAR
Monday to Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., there’s a light bites menu and drink specials are served in the wood-paneled bar. On Thursday nights there’s live entertainment, music from MOJO.
Favorite starters that remain on the new menu: steakhouse salad, house salad, the seafood tower, clams oreganato, burrata with heirloom tomatoes. Newer apps to try include the tuna poke, maple-soy-glazed bacon and artichoke with truffle vinaigrette.
The newly renovated event room upstairs is a modern, open space that can be customized with different décor to suit the event, from small cocktail parties to sit-down dinners for 100. You can also book the wine cellar or library for more intimate gatherings.
35 Church Street,
Dinner, Monday to Thursday 5 – 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5 – 11 p.m.; Sunday 5 – 9 p.m.;
Lunch, Friday 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
All photographs by Thomas Mcgovern.