Gravy is now open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday, with extended evening hours on the weekend. Gravy brings Italian-American cuisine downtown, and while that concept may sound familiar to those who have eaten at Bella Monica, Gravy is not Bella Monica II.
For those who remember Riviera, the last restaurant to occupy the space, there is little structural difference. Gravy retains the narrow-but-deep floorplan, with the bar on the left side of the restaurant and a large basement/cellar space that will undoubtedly be used for large groups and private events. The dining room has changed somewhat. There is a long row of booths along the brick wall to the right. Local art hangs on the wall. The other tables and chairs are black-on-black painted wood and arranged neatly down the center of the dining room parallel with the booths. It all feels very Manhattan, which is probably the idea. It is an efficient use of a relatively intimate space and makes for easy navigation throughout the restaurant. There are also a few high top tables at the front of the restaurant by the windows.
At 1:00 pm the downtown professionals were finishing up and the restaurant was slowly being overtaken by late lunch stragglers like myself. My reservation was probably unnecessary, but I would still recommend making one if you have a larger group or arrive during peak hours and don’t want to wait. But hey, there’s always the bar for that kind of thing. We were seated at one of the high top tables by the window which provided for prime people watching, both inside the restaurant and outside on the street. Case in point - Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp (a/k/a The Rosebuds) walked by about five minutes after we were seated. I guess they weren’t hungry!
The menu is reasonably-priced, with most lunch items priced between $8-12, and dinner entees costing a few dollars more. At lunch you can choose from a variety of pasta, oven baked specialties, sandwiches, salads, starters, and sides. The diner menu forgoes the sandwiches but adds a hanger steak, pan-seared chicken, and fish. The wine list is exclusively Italian, but also reasonably priced. By-the-glass selections start at $5 and there are several bottles costing in the low-$20s. Ordering Italian wine can sometimes be tricky since there are unique grape varietals, but fortunately Gravy’s list arranges their wines by flavor profiles to help us all out. The Montepulciano D’Abruzzo ($6/glass) was fragrant and dry; it was a good compliment to my meal.
My lunch companion ordered the Grilled Calamari Salad, which is available in small ($4.95) or large portions ($8.95). The large portion consisted of a plate of fresh greens, toasted pine nuts, sliced red onion, lemon olive oil dressing, and several tubes of fresh calamari. The calamari tubes were served whole rather than sliced for easy eating, and I think that pre-slicing would make for a better presentation and convenience, but that’s just my personal opinion. The salad was tasty and very light. I think it would be better as an appetizer salad rather than a whole meal, so thankfully it is available in a smaller portion for reduced price.
I decided to stick to the classics, so I ordered the “Meatballs & Gravy” ($8.95). And I couldn’t resist adding sliced Portobello Mushrooms for $2.50 (not pictured). The meatballs were juicy and flavorful, with just the right amount of seasoning. Most of the pastas are made in-house, and my spaghetti noodles were tenderly delicious. And for the gravy, of yes, the gravy! Gravy’s “gravy” as they say is on the rustic side as far as pasta sauces go. It is not the fluorescent red kind that you get from a can of Prego. It was clearly homemade, with bits of onion, garlic, olive oil, and spices. You can order your gravy with meat or vegetarian for no extra charge. Obviously as the restaurant’s namesake, I should hope the gravy would be delicious, and it was. My only complaint is that there wasn’t more of it.
But what good is pasta without fresh bread, right? The bread at Gravy was freshly baked and the crust was smeared with pesto. It was served with a dish of seasoned olive oil for dipping. We had to request bread so I’m not sure if that’s a policy or if our waiter simply forgot. Either way I definitely recommend it. It is rude to lick your plate in public, and I can’t think of anything better than sopping up the extra gravy with freshly baked bread. Sublime.
Overall I was impressed with Gravy. Normally I would not review a restaurant on its second day open (and first day open for lunch) but I was confident that Gravy would have everything in order. Running downtown restaurants is becoming old hat for Empire Eats, and the owners of Bella Monica have already succeeded once. I have little doubt that Gravy will become another go-to spot downtown for good food and good times.
Special thanks to Khaner Walker for snapping the pictures.