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Nov 14, 2013 07:18 PM

Gabriella's Harrisburg

So, we were invited out to Gabriella's with some of my husband's coworkers for tomorrow night. We've never been there, and to be honest, I had not heard of it until recently. In fact, just about 3 weeks ago my dad asked if we'd heard of an Italian place just north of Harrisburg some of his friends enjoy, but he couldn't remember the name. I'm wondering if this might be it.

I have very low expectations when I eat Italian in this part of the country with very few higher end exceptions that all tend to avoid "Italian American" fare (Bricco, Mangia Qui, Trat Frat). Is there anything on the menu that particularly stands out as very good? Is there anything that we should avoid?

Any and all information and opinions will be welcomed. Thanks!

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  1. Not been there but, if you have not already looked, they do have an extensive Facebook page with food pictures and comments which may offer some useful information.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bacchus101

      Thanks, I did not know that. Their website seemed a little lacking in information, so I'll check that out.

      1. re: centralpadiner

        Very interested in how it is. The only Italian American that we tolerate at the moment is Rillo's and I find it to be just ok. We have looked at this menu online but had a tough time justifying trying it due to the long-ish drive and slightly higher prices. Basically we don't ming a high ticket if it is worth it.

        Sometimes we ask for a little bit of red sauce with bread at the beginning of the meal so we can see what they do with the basics and whether or not we will be disappointed with something that uses that as the base.

    2. Just to check back in, we had a really pleasant evening. While I wouldn't say anything knocked my socks off, I can't think of anything that was particularly negative either.

      It was nearly full, so clearly popular. We had a reservation and were seated immediately. Service was nice and timely, we never felt rushed, but didn't feel like we were waiting too long either.

      The wine list was nothing special, I will say that. And they seemed to offer everything by the glass, which I found odd. I got a prosecco. It was just listed as "prosecco" no vintner or anything. And it was not a "good" prosecco in my opinion, I've had much better. But it was cheap, too, at $7 a glass, so not exactly a surprise. My husband had a glass of the Montepulciano, and was pleased.

      They had a special app of oysters on the half shelll, and I couldn't resist. Variety was not specified, that I can remember in the description. But they were very lovely and fresh, not as briny as some, which I liked very much. They were served simply, with just a wedge of lemon and cocktail sauce on a plate of ice. You got six; my husband and I each ate three.

      For my entree I got the flounder francese. I was really surprised by the portion. It was the reverse of what you often see. I got an appropriate amount of the capellini, rather than the full pound you often see, but 4 really nice sized flounder fillets. It was a nice surprise. The batter was a little heavy for my taste, perhaps. But, again, not bad. The flavor was great, the fish fresh tasting. The sauce nice and light. Very lemony. My husband got the chicken picata and was very pleased. Everyone else at the table seemed happy with another chicken picata and a grilled salmon. There was a pan seared scallop special, and I saw a few come into the dining room that looked great. (Scallops after oysters would have been too much for me.)

      We had the torta della nonna for dessert. It was really nice. Almond, pine nut and pastry cream with just a hint of lemon in a light tart shell. They didn't need to coat it quite so heavily in powdered sugar, but even with that, it was not cloyingly sweet. It was perfect for us to share.

      I'd go back here again if in the mood for Italian-American food. It was a nice place, not really loud but not stuffy either, reasonably priced and family friendly. One of those places where some people were in dresses and ties, and others were in jeans and polo shirts, but no one seemed particularly out of place. For us, it's just as convenient as going into the city of Harrisburg, and could actually be a really convenient option before or after one of my son's hockey games at Twin Ponds, so it will be nice to add it to the list.

      2 Replies
        1. The website pictures look familiar. Was this the same location as the former Pesce and JoAnna's? We are going to be down in that area Friday night and might check it out.

          11 Replies
          1. re: cleobeach

            From what I can tell, totally different place. Old info for Pesce says Eisenhower Blvd. This is Walnut St./Jonestown Rd. Just west of I-83.

            I hope I'm not steering anyone wrong. I'm curious as to what others think. I can imagine it getting mixed reviews depending on expectations. Mine were admittedly fairly low, but my husband is still talking about how good he thought the picata was, so I really don't think we are off base. That said, we aren't Italian and being from Central PA, I sometimes worry that my sense of "good" for Italian-Am. food is not accurate.

            1. re: centralpadiner

              Now I feel like I have to try it to "weigh in" as an Italian.
              Personally, I am quite harsh as a critic but there is decent and there is inedible when it comes to Italian American. There are very few that are excellent.

              1. re: melpy

                That being said, I even find some of the chain restaurants can do a good job even if I prefer not to patronize.

                For example, Carraba's chicken parmesan is as close to what I would make at home as you can get.

                1. re: melpy

                  Thanks for weighing in, Melpy. I think the decent but not excellent is what I was getting at in hoping to not set people's expectations too high.

                  And, for the record, I feel the same way when people ask about PA Dutch food, as a person of that heritage. There really is no such thing as "excellent" PA Dutch food. (Sheppard Mansion came close, but it was a riff on the classic flavors - nothing that would be recognizable to my grandparents.) But it is homey comfort food, especially if it is what you grew up with.

                  That being said, having lived for a very brief time in the Philly suburbs it was a world of difference just in availability as well as quality between there and here for Italian food. Most Italian places around here truly border on the inedible, for me. While there, we could find multiple options that were decent and some that were even a step above. None of that meaning to imply that it is anything like eating in Italy, or even a night at Vetri. But when you are in an area with a very strong Italian immigrant culture, a lot of the food can really be quite good. We don't have anything like that here, unfortunately. (or Chinese, or Thai, or Greek, etc.... but that's another thread)

                  But I found this place to be really quite decent. I hope some of the rest of you get a chance to try it out. I didn't try any of the red sauce stuff, because I've been so turned off by how sweet it typically is in this area. Next time I'll give it a try. That will be the true test, IMO.

                  1. re: centralpadiner

                    I didn't mean I had tried it. I meant I need to rush out and do so to give the Italian perspective. Probably won't be for a little while with Thanksgiving so close. Thanks for the extra info.

                2. re: melpy

                  Ok let me follow this, you are" weigh(ing) in" as an Italian. Are you an Italian or an American of Italian parents or parent. "There is decent and there is inedible when it come to Italian American" Really? "There are very few that are excellent" where?, by who's standards? There are many excellent Italian restaurants according to Fodors, Zagats, Conte Nast in most east coast cities of consequence ie. New York, Boston, Philadelphia, DC. not to ever mention most other major US cities. Not sure I understand how you are qualified to speak for Italians just because of some Italian blood.

                  1. re: Bacchus101

                    I meant weighing in on Italian American food as an Italian American.

                    I also meant there are few good Italian American restaurants in this small section of Central PA since we were talking about Pennsylvania on this board.

                    There are good restaurants serving Italian food but the "red sauce" and classics Italian American cliche restaurants could be better quality around here. Went to Sammy's in Harrisburg and should have left in the first few minutes it was so bad.

                    Honestly what gives any of us right or qualifications to judge food. I wouldn't dream of saying I know much about authentic PADutch food and I don't think CPAD is Amish/Mennonite now. Just my two cents.

                    1. re: melpy

                      I understood Melpy exactly. I threw in the PA Dutch thing, because I feel the same way regarding people seeking that out in the area - and they actually have reason to believe they should be able to find high quality versions, unlike Italian American. But, typically, it's just "decent."

                      For the record. I've never been Amish or Mennonite. It's not a requirement for being PA Dutch. Common misconception. More PA Dutch were Lutheran than any other religion at the time of immigration. It just means you were German speaking immigrants to South and Eastern PA before the Revolutionary War. My family came from the Pfalz region to Berks Co. (and what is now Eastern Leb. County) in the 1730s. To my knowledge, no Amish or Mennonite among the original settlers. And yet, I am pretty much as PA Dutch as you can get these days without being from a more "closed" community, since all branches of my family tree follow that same path. I mixed up the gene pool a bit for my kids. LOL!

                      1. re: melpy

                        melpy, thanks for the clarification. We all have the right to judge food especially here, it is what this site is about. But I see it as an opinion of individuals, perhaps with some special knowledge which might offer additional perspectives, but not representing an entire ethnic group. There are huge differences in likes and dislikes within ethnic groups and country regions therefore I would not suggest that my tastes represent my ethnic group. As you are interested in Italian-Italian American of good quality I would suggest you consider visiting two new Italian restaurants in Philadelphia there are many of both Northern and Southern but these are just opened and putting a new spin on traditional. One a "small red sauce place" getting very good reviews and the other on another level off Rittenhouse Square in the high rent district: in order they are Little Nonna's and the other is il Pittori other acclaimed Italian are Vetri, Osteria and Amis. and about 15 more others might favor. Your opinions are worth way more than two cents.

                        1. re: Bacchus101

                          Living near Harrisburg, we only make it to Philly a few times a year. Typically we have tried to get food which is not possible to get in this area. My husband dreams of trying Vetri one day. We did enjoy Osteria immensely when we went for our 5 year dating anniversary. The polenta budino is on my "best dishes ever" lost in fact.

                          I will keep the Italian American places you mentioned in mind. I think Philadelphia has an excellent handle on the Italian flavors and many restaurants are producing high quality dishes. Thisau be due to the increased number of Italian American decendents in that area or maybe not. It seems nation wide that if a particular ethnic group has settle in that area that the food tends to be more accessible. Think about the various Asian, Caribbean, Mexican immigrants and where that food shines.

                  2. re: centralpadiner

                    You are right, different places. I didn't think to look at the addresses.