It’s not often that my family and I are in Joburg at the same time. Without a doubt, we’re a family that loves the good food experience. Having said that, I have never resonated with labeling myself as a foodie. Mostly because I feel like I would be ‘elevating’ myself to a status, in which I would be an impostor. Anyway, I digress…
I heard about Gemelli from a friend when it opened earlier this year. I
always had an eagerness to go there and experience what their fine family dining had to offer. What better time then, with all of us in the City Of Gold, to give it a go.
We have not eaten out at an Italian restaurant in quite some time now. Col’Cacchios does not count. I enjoy their pizza, but a pizzeria is a different category for me. I can’t do justice explaining how excited we all were about the prospects of this eating out experience. You would have thought we had never been to a restaurant before.
Maybe it was because the dinner reservations had a fairly long waiting list, something I can’t remember experiencing in Jozi. Maybe it was because we knew of Alessandro Khojane, the co-founder, as the recommendation came from a friend whose taste I rate quite highly? Maybe it was because the kids were on holiday and we were simply having fun in Jozi, where I typically am in work horse mode?
While that excitement did create an anticipation and build up that brought out my inner child, the adult I am stepped in to ruin the party. “Excitement is always followed by disappointment” I thought to myself. I had got my wife and kids so worked up, that we might be creating too high an expectation, only for Gemelli to be a disappointment.
As we arrived for our dinner reservation, and parked in full view of the restaurant signage, the name Gemelli glowed in the darkness, as if I was about to attend a show on Broadway. Brightly lit, the bulbs spelt the name of this much anticipated Italian restaurant, and that for me set the stage. It was a cold Jozi night, and as we entered the restaurant, the warmth was not only from the heating, but also the warm reception of the staff who welcomed us. After giving our name, we were led to our table, where the four of us sat, and we were each handed a menu.
The place was buzzing! It was a Wednesday night, and the tables were full, with the typical cosmopolitan Joburg scene, where patronage was black and white people, unlike Cape Town dining where I do tend to find my wife and I playing spot another black family. It was tables of friends catching up after work, couples, some people seemed to be having a working dinner and of course, families were also out in their numbers having dinner. The age also varied, so belonging to the world, and not just limited to one part of it, in every aspect.
By now, my anxiety was easing, the ambiance was already a winner. The décor was modern, yet timeless. It was not lost in this modern design of a heavy industrial look. The copper finishes so subtle. The brown table tops, with the table number plate on the corner were also pragmatic. Gemelli gave me a sense of fine dining, without the stiffness a white table cloth brings. That’s why it was humming…
People were free to express themselves. People were talking to each other as opposed to their eyeballs being glued to their phone screens.
The dining experience lived up to expectations. I dare say, it probably exceeded them. The food did not only look good, but it was also rich with flavours. I skipped desert, but we did share two starters, and all had pasta as a main course. I did have plate envy while having my main, so there was quite a bit of forks ‘crossing the table’, as we sampled each other’s plates.
All four of us went with pasta, yet all four of our plates were different,
which is very rare for us as a family. We tend to end up ordering the same thing when we’re eating out. I particularly appreciated that Gemelli did not rip you off on the wine list, with a bottle of 2014 Doolhof Cabernet Sauvignon at a very fair price. Buying wine at restaurants in Joburg tends to be my biggest heart ache.
The hospitality industry is a hard one to get things right and please your customers, since we have such big opinions (and social media now). Your customers think they can run your business better than you, more than in any other industry I understand. Our waiter had been fantastic. Allesandro did also come over to our table to check if everything was in order. I think Alessandro Khojane and the team at Gemelli have really created an Italian fine dining experience, that lives up to its promise of La Famiglia Prima.