Gemma, the new Italian restaurant in the Bowery Hotel, is nothing if not spectacular. As baroque as the hotel lobby, every inch of the space is crammed with vintage candelabras, portraits of stern Italians or faggots. Copper pots dangle from hooks and wine bottles line a shelf that encloses the whole restaurant, like an alcoholic eruv. The atmosphere is something like TGIFridays mixed with the set of 8 1/2 with a nod to the boudoir scene in When Doves Cry. When we walked in last night, around 9:30 pm, the massive space was fairly full. The couple next to us was on a gay date but that didn't hinder one of the gentlemen from asking the (cute) waitress: Do I know you? Are you from LA? Are you a model? I'm in the business.
It was only then that we remembered we were in the Bowery Hotel, blocks away from Crash Mansion and mere feet away from the gurgling idiocy that is The Box. The menu, when it arrived, came bearing the restaurant's crest. A ship, a satyr and a banner displaying the motto: Cum Grano Salis. Also noted: "All water served at Gemma is Reverse Osmosis." A grain of salt indeed.
To be honest, just as we were once prepared to hate the Bowery Hotel in toto, we were prepared, eager even, to shower disdain on Gemma ab ovo. And though there were touches of pretension (reverse osmosis and all) Gemma isn't bad. It isn't bad at all. Though the menu is still in its Preview stage, every dish we ordered last night came nearly perfectly prepared and well-balanced. This all makes sense though—since many of the menu items were imported directly from La Bottega, the restaurant at the Eric Goode-owned Maritime Hotel on the West Side. Though familiar, the food was fresh, the burrata creamy and the sea bass perfectly grilled.
It's still too early to tell whether the restaurant will turn host to a nightly douchebag convention. The possibilities are there. It has already been called the less-literary Waverly. Which way will it go? We'll know within 90 short days.