Restaurant Review: Gambino's Original Italian Grill

The Gambinos are back. After almost a decade-long hiatus, the family has resumed the helm of their former restaurant, an enduring Fairhope favorite. Rick Gambino and his wife, Gari, originally opened Gambino’s in 1976 and ran the eatery almost 30 years before selling the business, but not the building. Several people have operated the restaurant under the Gambino’s name during the interim until last year when two of the Gambinos’ five sons decided to rebuild their family business and re-establish its solid culinary reputation. They reopened in April 2012 as Gambino’s Original Italian Grill. “Our popularity comes from consistently good food, large portions and great family prices, ” says Adam Gambino, who oversees the front of the house while his brother, Josh, the chef, is in charge of the kitchen.

The interior is comfortable and welcoming with the warm, retro feel folks will remember. There is a lot of booth seating, nifty murals of old Italy and a big bar area with an oversized flat screen, dance floor and more. There is also the panoramic Bayview Room.

The extensive menu offers something for everyone, from the traditional Southern Italian staples, such as lasagna, manicotti and eggplant parmigiana, to a whole host of veal and chicken dishes. There are seafood options galore – fried, grilled, sautéed, broiled and tossed with pasta. It’s a pasta lover’s paradise; almost everything can be served with or over pasta. Gambino’s is also for serious steak aficionados. They specialize in hand-cut, tender, aged Angus beef. There is a nightly special that is often a fresh fish entrée. To sip alongside, there is a sizable wine list featuring good vino at great prices. Dessert selections include crème brûlée, spumoni, chocolate cake and tiramisu.

They host “Comedy Night, ” featuring nationally known comedians, on the first Thursday of every month. “We are currently on our 10th show, all of which have sold out every month, ” Adam says. Tickets are $15. Frequently, there is also live music. Happy hour is Tuesday to Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. 

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Steamed Mussels
A sizzling skillet heaped with plump, steamed mussels divinely lavished with garlicky good lemony wine sauce. Truly a treat. Soak up any remaining sauce with the warm breadsticks.

Sauteed Artichoke Hearts
Tender artichoke hearts slicked with savory, satiny butter sauce laden with roasted red peppers and green onions, all crowned with Parmesan cheese

Veal Saltimbocca
Veal medallions served layered with thin Italian ham and melted Provolone cheese in a delightfully dark, slightly sweet Marsala wine sauce brimming with mushrooms

A light and ethereal traditional sweet, this ultra-moist espresso-and Marsala-soaked cake is capped with airy mascarpone, whipped cream and a scattering of chocolate sprinkles.

Gambino’s Original Italian Grill • 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Tu – Th; 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. F / Sa. 18 Laurel Ave. Fairhope. 990-0995.

text by Sallye Irvine • photo by Ashley Rowe

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