Gentile’s Restaurant: A Guru Review.

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I’ve heard so many things about Gentile’s Restaurant but only recently had a chance to try it for myself. People seem to just love chef/owner Kevin Gentile’s eclectic Italian creations. I’ve even heard some go as far as to call it the best restaurant in Syracuse. Because I’m quite fond (and guilty) of hyperbole, it was about time for the Guru to pay a visit. Chef Gentile’s cuisine is something I’ve been waiting a long time to try and I came in with really high hopes.

Gentile’s recently moved to what was formerly 313, bringing their unique one-of-a-kind dishes with them. The new location features an open, spacious dining room, a beautiful bar and hardwood floors. They’ve even got a dining room and bar upstairs, which will work for larger, private parties. Having been in the building several years back, I was familiar with Gentile’s new spot but they’ve done a great job refreshing the place. The decor is very minimal and the lighting is just right–you can actually see your food! I believe the modern feel better matches Chef Gentile’s concept of cuisine, which takes homestyle, neighborhood Italian classics (Greens, pasta and much more) to great heights. If anything, go get some post-work cocktails at Gentile’s bar, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what they’ve done. We sat on the upper level of the first floor, which–from what I could gather–borders a perfect area for outdoor dining in the summer months.

Just looking across the menu reveals an interesting trend. Almost every item is innovative and adventurous, blending ingredients and flavors you’d never expect. For example, have you ever heard of smoked salmon fajitas with arugula, pears, grapes and feta cheese with raspberry vinaigrette? Even some hard to find specialty items appear on the menu–where else can you get quail, or duck confit on a parsnip pancake? The pasta section is the most interesting part. Each item is named for the pasta variety–Farfalle, Campanelle, Oriecchiette–the list goes on. In the entree section you’ll find a half duck, C.A.B. steaks and lobster. Very few places in Syracuse even serve C.A.B. The menu is diverse as it is intriguing.

A few unique things about the service. When the waiter came over to fill our water glasses he stopped–mentioning that it had melon and orange in it. I don’t know about you but I’ve never got anything better than lemon. These unexpected details are what makes Gentile’s special. They constantly change up the fruit combinations in the water as well. It’s just enough to get the fruit flavor making the water more refreshing. Another cool aspect of Gentile’s is the wine list. They have a huge by the bottle menu but when you want a single glass your server will go through their memorized list. They start with grape varieties and help you narrow it down to that perfect wine to compliment your dinner. Gentile’s waiters are apparently also convincing sommeliers.

This was my first visit so I ordered Greens Gentile and the Farfalle pasta dish, as well as the carrot ginger soup. Since Gentile’s culture is half putting a new spin on classics and half inventing brand new cuisine, I felt that this order would tell me exactly what I wanted to know. The Greens are a classic standby of the Utica Italian style and the Farfalle is something completely new. It combines farfalle pasta (bow ties), smoked salmon, peas, mint and a lemon creme sauce. While you can see these items working well together, I’ve yet to see a chef actually take up the challenge.

The carrot ginger soup came out first. It was a pureed mixture of carrots, ginger, I’m guessing some dairy element and was served hot–seems like it would work as a cold soup as well. One taste revealed a complex flavor despite very few obvious ingredients. A strong, ginger-infused tartness gave way to a full carrot flavor and richness. I enjoyed it but was somewhat overwhelmed by the ginger tang. I ate half before giving up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very fresh and homemade soup that you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, just be prepared for full flavor and richness. I probably would have finished it if not for the appetizer and entree on the way. Next came Greens Gentile. It’s a traditional classic with added flair–spicy sausage, fresh broccoli and pancetta included. Added to the escarole and cherry peppers the meat balanced the umami flavor of the dish. The broccoli, which was only slightly cooked, added a nice fresh element to balance the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and pancetta. A very very good dish that I highly recommend. It’s traditional but has just the right amount of uniqueness to make it a standout. They even let me get a half order.

The Farfalle came out on a huge plate with plenty of smoked salmon and pasta. I love smoked salmon so I found the aroma incredible. Some might find the $18 price to be a bit high and maybe it is, but there’s no way you’ll be complaining about the portion–I had an entire second meal in leftovers. Like many of Gentile’s menu items, the Farfalle was rich but still manageable. The lemon creme sauce was delicious, if a bit salty. I really loved the dish; the mint, peas and porcinis complimented the smoked salmon perfectly. The flavorful smoked salmon worked wonders with the lemon creme sauce, which looked like an alfredo but was far more enjoyable. The mint highlighted the subtle tartness of the lemon very nicely. Try it.

This willingness of Gentile’s to experiment in a volatile, fickle industry is absolutely incredible. You could go as far to call Chef Gentile’s cuisine avant-garde. You literally will not find seafood dishes that use oranges and Grana Padano or veal pasta with craisins and kalamata olives. But don’t be intimidated, these dishes have been proven and even if you’re questioning the ingredients–don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. You should be aware that dinner at Gentile’s is on a higher price point than many ‘Cuse restaurants. It’s in the range of Tokyo Seoul, bc Restaurant, Moro’s Table and Scotch ‘n Sirloin.

A wonderful dining experience, friendly and knowledgeable staff, excellent cuisine and a chef who takes big risks to invent entirely new dishes forces me to go with:

Gentile’s Restaurant
313 North Geddes Street (Directions) -Former 313, Prime, Park Circle.
(315) 474-8258

Dinner Hours:
Tuesday – Thursday: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Friday – Saturday: 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Sunday: 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Lunch Hours:
Tuesday – Friday: 11:00 – 2:00 p.m.

Disclaimer: All Guru Reviews reflect my OPINION based on a real experience at various Syracuse restaurants.

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