This fabulous, Italian-inspired restaurant is always buzzing; always full –and for good reason. Eat Out critic Jodi-Ann Pearton explains why Gemelli Italian Restaurant is such a hit.
Average price for main course: R110
Serves: Contemporary Italian Bistro
Best for: A jovial get-together
Star ratings out of 5: Food 4, drinks 4, ambience 3
The cuisine is some of the best in Johannesburg: it is refined and well-prepared with the flavours always consistent and balanced. Every time one returns, it is consistent and fabulous, no matter whether you order a pasta or heartier grill. The food is always plated perfectly and served with a particular nuance that is focused towards the Johannesburg crowd.
The menu is heavily inspired by Italian cuisine, and uses fresh ingredients. Try a variety of the chicchetti (snacks) to start. Polpette di agnello (lamb meatballs), cozze (mussels), and calamari Gemelli are all must-try dishes. The Primi Piatta section has a lovely selection of plates for one and plates to share. Where Gemelli truly shines is with their pastas, risottos and main dishes. For a unique experience, order a seafood pasta and a waiter will arrive theatrically, delicately tying a bib around your neck before placing a steaming bowl of Linguine de Mare before you. It’s laced with prawn tails, mussels, clams, calamari, a rich tomato base, a splash of herb cream, and long al dente strands of perfectly cooked pasta.
Another standout is the Bistecca di Agnello (lamb rump). It is perfectly cooked to medium rare and served with a porcini mushroom risotto, parsley butter and a punchy umami olive tapenade as well as a large quenelle of crème fraiche.
Alternatively, order from the perennially wonderful selection of chef’s specials from the very talented chef. For those with a sweet tooth, the sweets menu offers some lovely classics as well as some interesting combinations. They make one think but are delicately put together and not over the top. Try the chocolate nemesis with salted butterscotch for something very decadent. Else, if your palate calls for something more savoury, go for the formaggi.
Gemelli offers a large wine list and broad drinks selection. The wine list has everything one could want from entry level South African wines to internationally accredited champagnes and fortified wines. Gemelli’s cocktails are fabulous and are an excellent way to begin the evening. Local and Italian craft beers are available too, as well as beer on tap. Waiters are well educated about the wine list and able to assist with queries.
The ambience of Gemelli’s is enhanced by the fact that it is always busy. One downfall is the acoustics, which are not ideal for conversation – so be prepared to shout at your guests. It is therefore not ideal for a romantic dinner for two, but rather for a jovial get together or occasion. The shop fitting is lovely, with raw wooden tables, starched linen, sparkling glassware and fabulous crockery. Overall the entire dining experience is consistently wonderful. Alex, one of the co-owners and “concierge” for lack of a better word, is utterly fabulous, he knows most of his clientele on a first name basis and one may watch him bouncing between tables making his customers feel at home.
Book to ensure you get a table. Lunch service is much quieter but the food is just as good. Gemelli is also well positioned to wait out the traffic if you happen to be stuck on Main Road or William Nicol in Bryanston.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.