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  Occasion: Cuisine: Area: Cost: Rating:
  Night Out Italian East Village Moderate Good

The day after my dinner at Gemma, I got an email my friend Heather, who’d joined some girlfriends and me the night before for an Italian feast. Her email was short and sweet, and ended with a request: “Dinner was great. Hopefully we'll do it again. But can we bring our waiter???” I laughed, and couldn’t agree more.

The waiter she was referring to was a gent called Ivo—a lean, swanky, ivory-faced chap with a straight mane of shoulder length blond hair, and clear blue eyes who has a tendency to speak (and swish his hips) like Sasha Baron Cohen’s Ali-G show fashion circuit character, Bruno. When Ivo arrived to offer us menus and a choice of water (Gemma filters New York tap, which is what we went for) his sentences were punctuated with a three part move—a generous hip swish, a coy head tilt, and a smile—and did he bat his eyelashes? Entirely possible. No matter. He had a sweet but mischievous smile and from the moment we met Ivo, we loved him.

To be sure, the restaurant that employs Ivo isn’t so bad either. Gemma, which loosely translates to little jewel in Italian, is an impossibly hip Eric Goode and Sean Macpherson creation that offers moderately priced straight up Italian fare in the manner of their other hotel restaurant, La Bottega. (The chef, Chris D’Amico, was formerly the chef at La Bottega.) It’s a formula that’s very much crowd-pleasing in its approach, but what makes it more special than La Bottega is the setting, which was designed by Taavo Somer (known for his work at Freeman’s), who’s turned the place into a weathered, intensely rustic trattoria with intricately carved wood-beamed ceilings, waxy candelabras, gothic wrought iron chandeliers, and mix and match farmhouse tables and chairs that face an open kitchen with a wood-fired pizza oven.

At the restaurant’s long bar, proper cocktails (Negroni, Aperol Sprizz, Margarita, Manhattan) are mixed with care from freshly squeezed juices. And thanks to food and beverage director James Stuart, general manager Eric Rosenfeld, and the charming Maitre d’ Giovanni Bertagnolli, the staff is warm, friendly, and welcoming. What a concept! (Take note Wakiya. It’s okay to be nice.)

We’d already had a cocktail at the hotel bar before dinner (a ritual I recommend) so by the time we met Ivo, we were already, shall we say socially lub ... [more, click below]

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