Gemma Simply Italian Carlton is Naples born Allesandro Bollino’s first restaurant in Melbourne after a 10 year stint in Auckland. The Gemma in the name comes from Allesandro’s mother and the Simply Italian part of the name comes from everything that the restaurant is supposed to encapsulate – simple Italian food. The small space and exposed brick walls combine with chequered tablecloths, Italian staff and Italian football jerseys to give a “typical” homely Italian vibe to the restaurant. Unlike the Italian restaurants on nearby Lygon Street however, none of it is over the top or forced. It’s all feels very genuine.
The drinks menu contains a range of local and Italian wines. A good selection of mainstream Italian beers are offered as well as 2 unfiltered beers from Italian microbrewery Mastri Birrai Umbri. I got the Belgian Dubbel in this impressive 750ml bottle. BYO for wine is also an option and the usual selection of liqueurs and spirits are also available.
Food wise, the menu is no nonsense, simple Italian food. The speciality at Gemma is the pizza and gnocchi. One side of the A4 menu is dedicated to pizza and the other side to salumi, antipasti, pasta, salads and desserts – dishes influenced by the flavours of Naples.
Calamari E Farro Salad (Calamari,, whole-grain farro, diced vegetables, Rocket, fresh mint, extra virgin olive oil) ($16.50)
The calamari was a very light dish. Nothing too overpowering and the different textures and flavours all worked well in conjunction with each other.
Pizza Capricciosa (Tomato Sauce, Campano San Marzano DOP, Fior di latte mozzarella, ham, olives, mushroom, artichokes) ($15.90)
A classic pizza flavour and one of my favourites. The right amount of ingredients, nice char to the crust and a super thin base. Simple. Delicious.
Gnocchi Special (Pumpkin, spinach, pancetta, pine nuts) ($21.90)
Most the pasta/gnocchi dishes are around the $17.00 mark however the special of the night was more expensive. Gnocchi so often goes wrong however at Gemma they were spot on and this dish definitely stood above the other two as being the highlight of the night. The gnocchi were dense and fluffy without being stodgy and the sauce was very tasty.
Mascarpone & Fig Gelato ($5.90)
I wanted to get the Nutella filled calzoncino but was stuffed by this stage of the night so split some gelato with my wife instead. I couldn’t really taste the fig but the mascarpone flavour of the very creamy gelato was apparent. The light biscuits were a nice touch.
This review was a bit light on in the text department but that’s because there’s not really too much to describe about these dishes. With simple Italian food cooked well with quality ingredients, big servings, decent prices and friendly service Gemma Simply Italian delivers exactly what’s expected and if you’re in the area, it’s miles ahead of the Italian restaurants around the corner on Lygon Street. Nearby, DOC Pizza & Mozzarella Bar probably edges out Gemma as my favourite based solely on the food, however Gemma is better priced and is more family friendly too and you won’t be disappointed if you visit. Definitely make sure you try the gnocchi.
Gemma Simply Italian
183 Elgin Street
Lunch: Mon – Sun: 5:00pm to 12:00am
Dinner: Fri & Sun: 12:00pm to 2:300pm