Gemelli Owner and Chef Clark Gilbert has a vision for his restaurant’s new home in Manayunk.
Gilbert sold his first restaurant in Narberth to make the move.
“Though I loved the Narberth space, I always wanted to have a liquor license and more seats. When I was approached with this offer for the Manayunk space that satisfied both of those wishes. I jumped at it,” he said.
Gilbert has had a “long affection for the business.”
“I have been in the restaurant business for 25 years, having started in the front of the house as a busboy/host, then waiter and bartender," he said. "At 18 years old, I started as a busboy at a restaurant in Haverford called Al E. Gators. It is currently the Lexus dealership,” he said.
Gilbert studied under French chef and owner Jean Francois Taquet in 1993 at Restaurant Taquet in Wayne.
“Francois thankfully talked me out of going to culinary school and I instead stayed with him and within a year and a half, he offered me a sous chef position,” he said.
From there, Gilbert cooked at the Fountain Room at the Four Seasons under Jean Marie Lacroix and two Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris.
His first coveted executive chef position came at the rebirth of La Terrasse. A chef de cuisine stint at the former Sheraton Rittenhouse Square gave him praise as “one of the cities most talented chefs” by a Philadelphia Inquirer critic.
His career came full circle with a return to Restaurant Taquet. Then in 2009, Gilbert realized his dream of opening his own space, Gemelli in Narberth, Pa. Gemelli on Main begins his sophomore effort.
The new location offers Main Street Manayunk with a variety of French-Italian cuisine. Escargot, rabbit rilette and pig cheeks are just a few of the highlights on the menu. The chef's menu continues to draw customers from Narberth.
“So far, I am really enjoying the move to the new location and I can only envision it getting better. The space looks great, even with some more design touches to come and we have already fed many of our regular customers from Narberth who are appreciative of our reemergence and love the new space and updated food,” Gilbert said.
But what foodies really want to know is: what is his favorite dish?
“My background is in French cuisine but I've always incorporated some Italian dishes and style into my cooking. Gemelli is Italian for twins and is also the name of a pasta," he said. "One of our signature pastas is the Gemelli, which we serve with a lamb bolognese, chick peas and cerignola olives."
Gemelli is always on the menu with some sort of bolognese (venison, veal, etc.).
"Of course, I'm partial to the entire menu, but my favorite appetizer is the Vitello Tonnato," Gilbert said. "It is a contemporary interpretation of a classic Italian dish that marries veal and tuna. In this case, we serve Tuna Tartare with Crispy Veal Sweetbreads and a Tonnato Sauce,” he said.
Most restaurants in Manayunk offer happy hour specials to draw more business and get people’s palettes hooked. Gemelli plans on joining the trend.
“We are still waiting on our liquor license, which we hope to have by next weekend. We certainly intend to offer some sort of happy hour at some point,” Gilbert said.
Being both chef and owner keeps Gilbert on his toes, but having a great support system keeps him invigorated.
“The chef part is something that comes quite easily and it is the role where I am most comfortable. As an owner, you have to wear many different hats and there are myriad distractions and always a fire to put out," he said. "I'm still trying to get comfortable wearing some of those hats. Fortunately, I have great partners and wonderful support in my kitchen and from my front of house management."
He has plans for Gemelli’s future but for now, he wants to put all his energy right where it is needed most – Manayunk’s Main Street.
“I do have thoughts for the future, but right now I need to focus all of my energies in the present. This is the only restaurant I am concerned with. Only when we have given Gemelli the proper foundation, can I consider other projects. If we do our work properly here, then other opportunities will follow.”
The current hours of operation are dinner, Sunday and Monday 5-9 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 5-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5-11 p.m. Lunch will be starting next week on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information or to make reservations call 215-487-1230.