Authentic Italian on the Gulf Coast


           It’s no secret that Italian food is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. The pasta, the bread, the wine, and the big portions…everything about it brings pure happiness to my soul and stomach. So on a recent trip to Fairhope, Alabama to visit one of my best friends I was over the moon when she suggested Italian for dinner on our first night. Located near downtown Fairhope is Gambino’s Italian Grill and before I even had a single bite of food I could tell that this is the epitome of a classic Italian restaurant. From the rustic outside to the eclectic décor inside, everything about Gambino’s screamed, “this is about to be amazing.”

Fairhope is about thirty miles from the Gulf Coast, which means one huge thing in my mind: SEAFOOD! Any time I am close to the water I absolutely have to get my hands on some fresh seafood. Now if you are wondering how to combine this with my current dining situation, then clearly you have never given yourself over to the best of both words: seafood pasta. While most Italian dishes are dressed with chicken, pork, or beef; I think that seafood brings an amazing flavor to pasta. With such an extensive menu, you can tell that Gambino’s takes full advantage of the Gulf Coast treats in combination with its cuisine.

With such a wide variety of mouth-watering entrees to choose from, I decided to go img_8787with something that I felt like would give me everything I wanted; the Seafood Palermo. Described as having a medley of shrimp, oysters, scallops, mussels, and clams sautéed with mushrooms and tossed with imported Linguini. You then get your choice of havingthe dish in a bath of homemade marinara or alfredo sauce…I went for the alfredo. Go ahead and wipe the drool off your chin because it gets better…each entrée is accompanied by a classic-Italian salad served family style and their made in house-breadsticks. Now any breadstick is a good breadstick in my opinion but these are something different entirely. These breadsticks…are made using Krispy Kreme glaze. Krispy Kreme glaze on a breadstick. Sound crazy? Maybe a little…but these things almost started a battle at the table once we were down to the last one in the basket. So light and fluffy with the most perfect combination of a sweet and garlic-y taste. The one downside to these two starters is that they only allow one free refill of each, after that you have to pay for additional refills. Now the glutinous part of me thinks, “bah, this is ridiculous!” while the more rational part of me thinks, “well…this is more authentic than the Olive Garden, sooooo…”

While waiting on our food we allowed the wine to flow and we were able to really img_8786take in the beauty of the restaurant. Like I said, we were visiting one of my friends who has recently moved just outside of Fairhope with her husband. So, when she called ahead to reserve our table she insisted that we sit in the lounge with the Piano. She then went on to explain to us that this was the best way to get the full experience of the restaurant. I’m all about an experience, so this sounded perfect to me! In addition she went on to tell us that in the lounge they have a bar and a stage with a piano that gives it a cool jazzy-esque feel. Having this expectation in all of our minds, we were shocked to say the least when we discovered no piano but a karaoke DJ and open mic instead. Throughout our evening we saw the DJ getting everything set up and playing a variety of music that got a lot of kids in the restaurant busting a move on the dance floor. More on the karaoke after our meal…

The food arrived in very generous portions and accompanied by our refill of salad and breadsticks. Once my pasta was placed in front of me I felt my senses spark immediately. My eyes were consumed with the masterpiece that was created within my IMG_1981.JPGbowl from the noodles to the creamy sauce to the seafood-playing hide and seek amongst it all. After I took in everything visually, my nose then was breathing in every savory ingredient up until the very moment I picked up my fork. To describe my first bite would simply not do this meal justice since every bite created a different experience. Having such a delicious orchestra of seafood in the pasta really made this meal something magical. Aside from the perfectly executed seafood, the pasta itself tossed in alfredo was nothing less than magnificent. Creamy without being too heavy and cooked the precise amount of time, this pasta is the reason people love Italian food.

Sitting back in our chairs holding our stomachs and basking in all our full glory, we were ready to leave and have a relaxing rest of the evening. Apparently, our waitress I had something different in mind for us. The karaoke DJ had finished his preparation and was ready to begin taking his victims. Now with any open mic or karaoke night someone has to be the guinea pig and get the night started. After two bottles of Chianti and countless bites of carbs…our waitress thought that should be us. Three girls and three guys might typically be a difficult group to perform altogether, but not for us! We flipped through the song book and found the perfect song…”Love Shack” by the B52s. Lots of high notes and giggles later, we had officially kicked off Gambino’s weekly karaoke night. Overall, I would say that my experience at Gambino’s left me filled completely with joy, memories, and lots of scrumptious food.img_8790


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