Like many diners recently, we don’t do a fine-dining splurge that often, but we made a visit to Gentile’s this week. It had been a long time since our last visit, and it was great to be back. The calamari appetizer was so good, it was almost enough to make me weep with joy. The menu does, in fact, say it’s the best in Syracuse. This sort of statement brings out the snarky cynic in me, especially when it comes to pizza – every pizza place somehow has the best pizza in [insert your location here], even stuff that’s worse than frozen pizza. Cheesecake is another popular example of being “best” wherever you go. So “best” has become a vague term in today’s silly lexicon. Still, I’ll say that Kevin is right about the calamari.
I had the rack of lamb, which was succulent and gently flavored, a perfect fall evening dish. It was delightfully augmented with tiny fried gnocchi. Lonnie’s duck had a luscious sauce with cherries just bursting with flavor. We were repeatedly cooing with pleasure.
Another great thing about Gentile’s is the service. It has been so friendly and professional every single time we’ve been there. We waltzed in fairly late without a reservation, and managed to get a seat at their gorgeous bar. It was an especially convivial spot, and the bartender was incredibly sweet, friendly, and helpful. Sometimes at fine dining places you get a certain reserved distance from the servers, which can be just fine and unobtrusive, but friendly repartee is a bonus to me.
Chef Kevin is incredibly skilled, and highly creative, two things that don’t always go together. You can have a killer red-sauce Italian place and just crank out the 50-year-old classics ad infinitum, and many eaters wouldn’t have it any other way. Since we’ve had that type of food since the Jefferson administration, we like things that are more bold. The list of specials that night was almost mind-bogglingly inventive.
Someone commenting on Jim Johnson’s blog mentioned that Gentile’s will tweak a dish at a customer’s request, and though I have no need of that with Kevin’s masterful food, I have seen people do it. So diners who are chicken picky less adventurous can make requests within reason.
There are quite a few Syracuse restaurants that are very good. But very few can compare with Gentile’s.