Gemelle, 4400 White Settlement Rd, FW. 817-732-9535. 11am-3pm and 5pm-9pm Sun, 5pm-10pm Mon-Thu, 11am-3pm and 5pm-11pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Americans and ancient Romans are kindred spirits, bonded through time by a penchant for violent sports, overindulgence, and global hegemony — and especially by our love of Italian cuisine. There’s always room for another slice of pizza, at least that’s what Tim Love is betting with his new upscale-casual Italian restaurant in Fort Worth’s River District. Gemelle is the ninth restaurant in Love’s culinary empire, which also includes Lonesome Dove and Woodshed Smokehouse.
Like Woodshed, Gemelle sits right on the Trinity River and boasts a unique outdoor area for dining, drinking, and hanging out. The large courtyard exudes a chic Positano-via-Palm-Springs vibe, complete with round cabana beds and shady seating nooks. Raised gardens bloom with pink flowers, ivory eggplants, tiny tomatoes, and marigolds. Bright green Astroturf flows faux-naturally between the outside bar and bocce ball courts. A small stage with a neon “LOVE” sign is ready for a party. My guests and I grabbed a white bistro table under an orange umbrella and sipped limoncello spritzes, which were blissfully flavorful and not too sweet — and exceptionally refreshing on the sunny summer day.
We scored a lucky table in the indoor dining room (air conditioning!), an intimate space that is tricked out in stylish geometric patterns of pink and green. Love’s 16-year-old twin daughters wo-manned the hostess stand. Ridiculously bright-eyed and totes adorbs, they’re the inspiration behind the restaurant’s name, which means “twins” in Italian.
Gemelle’s crudo of the day arrived in a flash: raw tuna with sweet jalapeño juice, olive oil, and parsley. The sweetness was surprisingly engaging, and the appetizer felt carefully finessed, even if it looked a little skimpy on the plate. Our need-more-food-now prayers were answered by the hefty sticks of hand-battered mozzarella and fresh eggplant, which wallowed in marinara sauce. With a bit more salt, they would have been perfect. A salt cellar was stationed on our table, but it looked grubby and manhandled. No one wanted to touch it, not even for the tuna conserva — an insipid little gang of sliced radishes, tuna chunks, and egg salad. The fish’s texture was truly supple, but the flavor lacked. We left almost everything on the plate.
Trending now but dating back to the days of the Roman Empire, cacio e pepe is a simple dish of pasta, pepper, and Pecorino Romano cheese. Gemelle’s version took bland to a depressing new level. One of my guest’s boxed it all up to take home — not to eat, but so her husband could taste how bad it was. His homemade cacio e pepe was far better, she assured us, beaming with pride.
I had craved lobster for weeks and knew immediately that I would order the lobster spaghetti as soon as I saw it on the menu. Imagine my disappointment when the pasta arrived with langoustine — lobster’s much smaller crawdad-looking cousin. While langoustine might technically be a lobster (unlike the similar langostino), it’s not what most diners expect when they see the word “lobster” on a menu in Fort Worth. Our waitress confessed that multiple guests had raised similar concerns. All would have been forgiven had the pasta dish wowed us. Alas, blandness prevailed yet again. The tiny langoustines tasted fresh, but they swam in a dull, watery sauce. It became the third uneaten dish on our table.
What could save this meal? The house pizza, that’s what — a badass slab of knee-deep mozzarella topped with pepperoni and pickled jalapeño. With a fat rectangular crust that’s crispy on the bottom, Detroit-style pizza is a rare find in Fort Worth. Gemelle does it right. Hearty toppings stood up to the spongy base below, and a drizzle of honey played foil to the pie’s savory and spicy elements.
Dessert hour arrived alongside a wicked afternoon thunderstorm that turned the sunny day into Dorothy’s bad dream. High winds knocked out the power and denied us dessert, which was a shame because we really wanted to try the butterscotch pudding and the lemon semifreddo.
Gemelle’s vibrant gardens and al fresco playscape set it apart in the city, and its casual-cool style feels fresh and new. Unfortunately, the food failed to impress, and the service was just OK. Bocce might lure me back, but I’ll eat my pasta elsewhere. And I will have my lobster, in this life or the next.
Limoncello spritz $10
Tuna conserva $12
Cacio e pepe $12
Lobster spaghetti $16
House pizza $12