This small establishment is based right in the Town Centre of Torquay, just above the main high street. From the exterior it is minimalist styled and unless you were looking for it, you would pass it right by as the front is the same size as all the other shops/operations which are on this street. They advertise them selves as an authentic Italian restaurant, for me this instantly gets shudders of fear in my bones as the thought of deep pan pizza’s, pasta which is saturated in sauce and watery minestrone soups instantly comes to mind. The owners of Gemelli’s are a complete family team with Lorenzo being based in the kitchen and his wife as head front of house, this is then combined with the kids staying upstairs which im sure are the future chefs of the establishment.
The table booked was for Wednesday lunch time at 12:30, upon entering the restaurant I was slightly disappointed to see the place completely empty with no sign of life from owners/staff or diners. I guessed this was due to the pre-christmas detoxes and everything else going on, however standing waiting in the room, still no life was to be found to show us to our table or anything, I decided to take a look around the the Deli counter which has a very good range of items. The small glass windows shows various marinated olives and vegetables, a good range of meats and also a wide range of cheeses. Now at this point over 3 minutes had gone by with no sign of life what so ever, 3 minutes on paper seems no time at all, but when you are waiting for something or in an awkward unknown location it can seem like a life time. At about this time I thought that was going to be it, but then I noticed by the door entering the restaurant a small bell and upon banging the dong, the head of front of house immediately popped out and offered a very warm welcome.
She was very friendly and kind to talk to and made you feel immediately at ease and due to being the only ones in the restaurant this was needed, we were shown to our table at the front of the restaurant with the large windows allowing you to people watch and the goings on outside. The tables are all cleanly dressed with white table cloths and glasses and cutlery placed, with small flower pots placed around. The entire dining room is airy, bright and offers a lovely calm atmosphere even at this time with few people around.
Main course + soft drink / coffee £ 6.45
Starter + Main Course + soft drink / coffee £ 8.45
However on this occasion I really fancied having the goats cheese starter which was on the evening menu, Lorenzo was more than happy for my to not go off the lunch time menu and switch to the full evening menu instead. The menu is a great mix of authentic pasta dishes combined with a mix of main courses which suit most tastes, also due to the nature of the chef/cooking he is happy to alter these dishes to suit other tastes or preferences. There is also an extensive pizza menu here which has all that you would expect to find.
With orders taken a small pot of olives and marinated sun dried tomatoes was placed on our table with small tooth picks, these were lovely and fresh and offered a great light snack to prepare us for our meal. I am always surprised when Italian restaurants provide you bread and oils as a pre starter, as most of the starters/mains are carb based pasta and with this added bread it is just so easy to fill up too quickly and become bloated. So this was a nice alternative and allowed you to snack without the concern of being to full to get through your main.
When presented with the dish I loved how it was very rustically styled on the plate, with the produce not trying to made into something that they shouldn’t be. Everything could immediately be identified on the plate and simply sampled without the need to go routing through the dish to find that certain flavour. The toasted bread was lovely and had a light helping of oil, which was added to by the grilled vegetables which were lavishly coated in a very good olive oil. The large disc of goats cheese atop of the stack of bread and vegetables was gloriously gooey and melted on the outer edges, with the centre still having a good texture to it. The cheese was extremely rich and had a slight hint of salt at the end of the palette which I did enjoy, particularly pleasant was the use of the oil and pesto which was actually melted into the cheese and provided such a great mix of garlic and herb flavours infused into the entire slice. With all the flavours combined of the stack this made for a fantastic dish with the oil providing just enough moisture to compliment the cheese. The small added salad was used well to provide a slight crunch to the entire dish and lightened the dense cheese.
Now due to the fact in my past experience of Italian restaurants it seems no matter what you ask for when you order a dish of pasta, not only do you get an extremely large and deep bowl, this bowl is usually piled high with dense filling carbs which is one of my pet annoyances when it comes to UK italian restaurants as it is so just too filling for one person to eat. So with this in mind I decided on asking for a starter portion for my main dish, knowing that this is normally what I consider a main dish size. When Lorenzo brought this to the table I must admit, I let out a sigh of relief as not only was the portion perfect but it was served on a plate and not in a deep bowl. The presentation again was very similar to the starter, being very rustic and having that home style cooking look, with all items being simply found and no frills added to the plate, the only addition being a slight sprinkling of parmesan cheese which had already started to melt into the pasta. On first taste I was very found of the seasoning which was perfectly balanced with the salt levels being on a very even level, which with the use of Italian sausage I normally find is a little off in these types of dishes. The sausages added a lovely element to the dish with a great taste and a different texture to the pasta which was tender but not to hard, I would describe it as just have a “bite” and I was still able to easily wrap it around my fork. The main praise here however is the perfect portion of sauce used, there was no cream dripping from the stands of pasta yet it just coated it lightly and allowed for all the flavours to merge together without feeling like you were eating more of a stew than a pasta, which again I found it alot of Italian eateries the sauce is outweighing the actually pasta portion. I loved this dish and found the whole mix of sausage, earthy and juicy mushrooms and the perfectly cooked pasta a fantastic combination.
Having now fooled my mind into thinking that i’ve only eating 2 small starters I immediately set my eyes on the lovely dessert menu. Unfortunately Lorenzo informed me that he was still making his Tiramisu so this was off the menu, however upon seeing the words “bread pudding” the thought of this stodgy dessert had my excited. Again Lorenzo was kind enough to bring this dish to the table him self, and it was a lovely portion size with the pudding being a good 2×4 inches. When I started tucking into the dish my immediate surprise was a Brulée type topping with sugar which had been glazed/burnt ontop of the bread to form a sort of gorgeous crunchy topping, this provided a sublime change in texture from what this normally stodgy dessert provides. The panettone was great quality with juicy raisins and different fruits place densely throughout the entire section, the desert was served quite hot but not steaming, this was a nice touch as this allowed for the ice cream to start to slowly melt and not just form a pool of liquid immediately. The ice cream was very good and had a good flavour, however it would have been nice to actually find some ground pistachio pieces in the ice cream but this is of personal taste. This has got to be one of my favorite puddings of recent, the whole rustic no frills serving style is brilliant and allowed you to enjoy exactly what you saw on the menu.
Overall – 8/10
I really enjoyed my lunch at this small Italian eatery, and have very very few complaints here. The food was all sublime with everything cooked, tasting and feeling fresh and not pre-prepared, the flavours and combinations used provide for a great authentic Italian experience and the whole in house family team only add to this. The service was also very good with everyone being pleasant and talkative without being to in your face etc, also it was very good service to be able to have 3 freshly cooked courses in the space of 1.5hours and can only praise Lorenzo for this.
The value is excellent as well with my entire meal costing between 15-17 pounds with water, and considering if I did have a main instead of a 2 starter portions this would still be under £25 per head, I think this is good value for money.
My only mine gripe being here is the lack of welcome upon entering and it would be nice to see someone permanently outside in the main dining area to great you, or a sign next to the bell asking you to ring to get attention would be nice.
I would recommend this place for a relaxed lunch for families, or would be fantastic for a close romantic meal for couples. I have since returned to this restaurant as I enjoyed it so much and I am ashamed to say had exact same dishes as previous, this in my opinion is only a praise for the cooking as I enjoyed it that much.