THIS POSH ITALIAN STEAKHOUSE PUSHES THE BOUNDARIES OF FLAVOR AND CONCEPT IN RED BANK
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN PHOTOS BY MICHAEL SOFO
After several successful years’ operating the popular Patricia’s of Holmdel, owner Frankie Brusco decided to expand his restaurant holdings. Snapping up a vacant Bonefish Grill located at the center of a bustling strip mall, the restaurateur pumped $1.9 million into the spacious site, completely gutting the interior and filling it with imported, handmade mahogany tables and chairs and creating a posh covered patio with ample outdoor seating. The concept and menu? He went with a model that was decidedly different.
“I wanted this space to be unique,” Brusco said. “I feel like Italian is everyone’s comfort food and you can find it literally everywhere. I did the research and there is really no true steakhouse in the area so I built this restaurant around some prime steak offerings and designed a menu and atmosphere that truly has a wow factor. It’s been a huge success since day one.”
Brusco teamed up with Gabriella Varshavsky, who worked for him at Patricia’s, and together the duo designed a unique mix of food and ambiance. In 2019, Gabriella’s Italian Steakhouse served its first filet.
“I fell in love with the restaurant business at a young age, working for Patricia’s and Tao Downtown in NYC and had a tremendous experience,” noted Varshavsky, who earned a degree in hospitality/hotel and restaurant management from Pace University Business School in Manhattan. While in school, she dined at as many top rated New York City restaurants as she could, jotting down every single one of her likes and dislikes. During her summers off, she landed a job as a hostess to garner real world experience and continue learning the ins and outs of the culinary business.
“The NYC dining experiences really inspired me to open something up in Monmouth County that we were missing,” Varshavsky continued. “I wanted it to be the best of the best.”
Serving a union of high end steak cuts and traditional Italian favorites, Gabriella’s has become a go to hotspot for an impeccably dry aged NY Strip with a side of cacioe pepe.
Chef Michael Tsarnas, who has decades of experience under his apron, whips up menu items like truffle lumache with fresh porcini mushrooms, fennel sausage, mascarpone cheese, and black summer truffles.
“We are a steakhouse so our staples are filet mignon, cowboy cuts, and chops,” said Tsarnas. “But I take those main items and finesse them with nicely dressed produce that’s seasoned just right.”
His summery Brussels sprouts feature pancetta, diced apples, and orange blossom honey, while gnocchi is smothered in beech mushrooms, spring peas, a butter emulsion, and toasted breadcrumbs. Lamb chops are pesto encrusted and served with shaved asparagus. Branzino comes with charred lemon, EVOO, and arugula.
Gabriella’s signature dishes include a spicy rigatoni smothered in vodka sauce, Calabrian chili, and onion soubise, and a 45 day dry aged porterhouse for two served with rosemary steak fries and preserved lemon.
“Our beef is Pat LaFrieda and we have an in house pastry chef who makes the most beautiful Italian desserts,” noted Brusco. “Our signature cocktails rotate seasonally so there is always something new and fresh for our guests to enjoy.”
Brusco said the two year old restaurant is already a date night staple for New Jersey diners. Friday and Saturday nights are booked solid for the next several months.
“There’s a New York/Miami vibe here that you cannot find anywhere else in New Jersey,” said Brusco. “And people are simply swarming to it.”
And now that they’ve rebounded from the pandemic and state restrictions have been lifted, Brusco and Varshavsky are expanding the restaurant.
“We’re building a speakeasy sushi lounge that will be located right next door,” noted Brusco. “It will be a private room, already in the design stages, and hopefully opening early 2022.”
For Varshavsky, who dedicated years of study to the art of fine dining, Gabriella’s is a dream come true. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m enjoying every minute of this process,” she said. “I love seeing people truly enjoy a meal.
I love watching the happiness and commotion in the dining room. All of our guests tell me that after dining at Gabriella’s they no longer have to drive into NYC anymore. I think that is the best compliment I could ever receive.”
Gabriella’s Italian Steakhouse
447 NJ 35, Red Bank / 732.456.6699 / gabriellasnj.com