The coastal crew behind Gemelli Italian opens its Brisbane flagship on James Street
Submit a survey to 100 Gold Coast locals asking where they go for incredible Italian and the majority of returned results will likely single out one name – Gemelli. With a portfolio of restaurants that includes outposts in Broadbeach, Nobby Beach and Sorrento, the family-run operation, which specialises in homestyle Italian eats blended with contemporary touches, is a firm favourite of the Gold Coast dining scene. Last week, the Gemelli Italian team lifted the cloche on its anticipated Brisbane expansion – a two-part concept on James Street encompassing a trattoria-style eatery and a slick aperitivo bar. Gemelli Italian Brisbane and its sibling sipping spot Bar Tano offer a kind of evergreen epicurean experience that will undoubtedly make it a standout among James Street’s illustrious ranks.
No matter how many experimental frills and new-age spins one adds to Italian, the cuisine’s traditional expression – rustic, hearty and wholesome – is a style we always gravitate back to. This tried-and-tested kind of fare is what folks flock to Gemelli Italian in droves to devour. The beloved Gold Coast-born restaurant, founded by twins James and Alec Carney, has flourished since its Broadbeach location opened in 2013 (their older brother, Paul, joined Gemelli Group later as beverage director and sommelier). Their portfolio has since expanded over the years to include Gemellini in Nobby Beach and Roy’s by Gemelli in Sorrento, so with accolades galore and their status as a GC institution secured, it was only a matter of time before the Carneys turned their eyes north to Brisbane. Ask the boys how long they’ve had Brisbane in their sights and they’ll tell you that an expansion up the M1 has been on the cards for a while, but every potential location they inspected (the group estimates it has scoped out roughly ten sites over the years) never proved big enough for their intentions. Fortunately for the Gemelli Group and Brisbane diners alike, patience (and a bit of savvy haggling) has paid off big time – earlier this year Gemelli Group snagged not one, but two spaces on James Street, taking over the primo positions previously home to Bucci and Lululemon. These two tenancies, which occupy prominent spots on the corner of James Street and McLachlan Street (opposite Wheel & Barrow) has given the Gemelli team the opportunity to bring its brand of humble heartiness to James Street’s cutting-edge array of eateries, but also try something a little bit new and exciting for themselves. The Lululemon space has been completely transformed from activewear emporium into Gemelli Group’s Brisbane flagship restaurant, while the Bucci space is now home to Bar Tano, a polished aperitivo bar and snacking spot.
The Gemelli Group has worked with Hogg & Lamb to craft the interior look for Gemelli Italian and Bar Tano. Both spaces have been given their own distinct visual identity, with the restaurant side drawing influence from Gemelli’s rustic homespun inspirations (evidenced by the timber arches and warm wood tones) but contoured by modern elements like terracotta tiles and marble counters. The restaurant is split into three levels – an almost-alfresco space boasting corner frontage and large open windows, and a two-tiered dining floor offering views of the marble bar (backed by a wine rack stocked with more than a hundred bottled of vino), a display fridge loaded with salumi and Gemelli’s bespoke pizza oven imported from Naples. Here the Gemelli Group is offering a menu that closely resembles Broadbeach’s lauded offering, itself informed by the rubric of traditional Italian cooking that favours freshness, flavour and familial warmth above all else. Broken up into antipasti, salumi, red and white pizzas, pasta, mains, sides and salads, and desserts, there’s something here to suit nearly every taste. Highlights include figs wrapped in prosciutto di parma (that has been aged for 24 months) drizzled with gorgonzola cream, the Salina pizza (black olives, Messina black anchovies, capers and burrata mozzarella), gnocchi zucca (poasted pumpkin gnocchi with pine nuts, sage, cream and pecorino cheese), polpo alla griglia (grilled West Australian octopus), and the deep-fried Nutella calzone. Paul has taken the lead on the restaurant’s beverage list, which includes house special cocktails (the Sicilian Margarita, with reposada tequila, muddled chilli, Etna mandarino, lime, blood-orange soda, chilli salt and orange rind, is a favourite), Italian wines by the glass and bottle (expect lots of nebbiolo, barbaresco, barolos and even some Super Tuscans), and Italian beers.
Bar Tano, by comparison, is sleek and modish. When deciding what to do with the space, the Carney brothers debated a range of concepts that might suit (a panino bar was temporarily a frontrunner) before setting on a 55-seat Milan-style aperitivo street bar that could help wanderers and diners bridge work and play. Bar Tano features a striking mix of textures and tones – polished concrete is offset by green marble, with stools, high tables and timber booths ringing the mid-century New York-inspired hanging bar. Here the local drinking crowd can pop in for a pre-dinner bite or late-night tipples and antipasti, enjoying a more experimental take on Italian street food typically unseen on Gemelli’s regular menu. Guests can nibble on whipped ricotta dip with citrus, Nonna’s pork-and-beef meatballs, potato-and-taleggio croquettes topped with Sicilian anchovies, fluffy 100-percent hydration house-made focaccia, or a customisable assortment of salumi and cheeses, if preferred. Paul and Bar Tano’s head bartender Fabrizio Del Re have crafted some suitably chic cocktails to imbibe, including the Piscus Hibiscus (a pisco sour riff featuring hibiscus, Disaronno, lemon and egg white), the Better Than Butter (a rich and buttery twist on the classic whisky sour), the Cuccurcucu (Bar Tano’s take on a paloma, with tequila, lime, grapefruit soda and homemade agave syrup) and the Bonfire (think a tropical daiquiri with a spicy twist). The beverage list also includes classic cocktails, mocktails, beers and plenty of Italian vino, naturally.
The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Brisbane dining guide with more than 2400 places to eat, drink, shop and play.