Gennaro is your classic neighborhood Italian restaurant, the only difference is that this one is by far the best. The spot has been around for decades on the Upper West Side, having expanded its space three times. This fact surprises me since the space is still rather tiny. The room was completely packed during my Sunday night visit.
Gennaro only accepts cash and there are no reservations. Yet it is all worth it. Despite the funky artwork decorating the walls, such as a giant cut-out slab of meat, Gennaro maintains a cozy Italian vibe with loads of shelves containing tons of bottles of wine.
The menu is where the truest beauty of Gennaro is displayed. It is nearly impossible to choose what to eat, especially after hearing the specials. The list is so long it could easily make its own menu. Tantalizing dishes such as a watermelon and goat cheese salad, and a pumpkin ravioli, rolled off the tongue of our waitress. After a basket full of delicious bread, we chose to share a dish of perfectly prepared gnocchi served in a creamy red sauce, and a wonderful appetizer of burrata and vegetables in a warm pesto sauce. It was phenomenal.
For the main course I had to try the salmon in a mustard sauce atop cooked spinach and super creamy mashed potatoes. The fish was delicious with a flaky crust. The pumpkin ravioli just couldn't be avoided and was devoured immediately. The brown sugar and butter brought this dish to the highest level irresistibility. so many other amazing dishes crowd the menu, including loads of pasta options and delicious meats, like braised lamb shank in a red wine sauce.
As the night advanced and people continued to pour in, the mood only heightened with delicate candlelight and chatter from customers. Our meal was nearly finished and although we were fully stuffed, the meal would not be complete without dessert. Choices include Italian favorites like creme brûlée, pana cotta, and tiramisu, which is so fabulously rich and creamy that I ate every last bite.
I have been thinking about Gennaro ever since I visited this charming spot. I will definitely be going back again. With such a great variety of dishes daily, Gennaro can always be counted on for offering something different, and with such high quality, this spot should be around for many more years to come.