Eating Local in Mt. Olive, NJ: Gabby’s II – the Review

10 03 2011

We heard about Gabby’s II  in Hackettstown from good friends Tara and Dan,  and I am pleased to welcome this new Italian restaurant to the area. Sure, we are flooded with so many pizza “joints” you can throw a rock and hit one in any direction on RT 46, mountain Ave, or RT 57 – but you won’t find this care of ingredients, preparation and quality of food in any of the rest.

Hector & Josh, Owners of Gabby's II

Gabby’s II resides were Carlena’s was – 190 Mountain Ave. in Hackettstown (to the right of the IHOP). It opened in December, 2010 and the owners are warm and gracious hosts Tricia and Hector Salazar (locals from Mount Olive) and partner Josh Harris (of Flemington). They come with a wealth of experience – this is their second restaurant (Gabby’s I is in Flemington, NJ).

By the way, Gabby is the name of Hector and Tricia’s little girl, which makes sense as this does feel like a family place.

We came in and sat at a one of the available tables early on a Tuesday night. A few people were already sitting and it was just after 5 p.m. We were given menus (nice selection) quickly and decided to order a few things to share – so we can see how they prepare some of our favorite Italian-American dishes (no Osso Bucco tonight).  We decided on Chicken Francaise, Eggplant Parmesan hero, and Penne in Vodka Sauce. Dinners come with the usual salad and pasta choices.

Gabby's II Dining Room

Tricia took our orders and returned quickly with bread and soon followed up with the salads. Nice crisp fresh greens, onion, tomato and olives, with a good balsamic dressing (not to heavy).

We were given both garlic and regular bread in a basket and I had a good feeling after taking a bite. Hot, crunchy, amazing. No bits of raw or overcooked garlic or over oiled. The bread itself is actually seeded French bread (as Hector explained) to give it the right texture. This was not the soft spongy bread that are the norm in these parts, it was crunchy outside with a great bite and taste, and just enough garlic and butter.

The food came out and the Eggplant Parmesan hero had the perfect combination of eggplant, tasty sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese and of course – served on that excellent bread.

The Shrimp Parmesan dinner was equally good – with large shrimp breaded perfectly and topped with that delicious Marinara sauce and fresh cheese. Generous portions!

The Penne was cooked perfectly al denté and the vodka sauce was rich and thick – extremely creamy! Plenty to share all around.

The Chicken Francaise was the best dish so far, with a perfect blend of lemon, butter and lightly breaded, fork-tender, thin chicken. The ziti that accompanied it was also cooked perfectly al denté and served alongside (perfect in the lemon sauce too). This is my favorite dish and something I learned to cook from a chef many years ago and has become my “signature dish”. This was even better than my own – I love this dish.

We were too full order dessert, but they have a nice selection! The pizzas looked great too and we will certainly be back to try those!

Hector came around to the table and introduced himself, and asked how everything was. We  explained were really here to try his food and see if we liked it (which we did) and see about catering for an upcoming party. He was very accommodating and sent us home with a sample of the Sausage, Onion and Peppers to try  since we were interested in having it on our menu for the party. It was cooked and seasoned perfectly –with tender sausage (sweet not hot). It was so delicious that I ate the peppers and onions as ravenously as the sausage!

Hector’s care about ingredients is evident, as he told me they do not buy that frozen pre-breaded stuff that typically helps cut corners (time, money but most of all, quality). You can taste care in everything they do.

It is a BYO so don’t forget to bring something to pair with your meal. I had a Cupcake Vinyards Sauvignon Blanc that had nice lemon, lime and grapefruit flavors and paired well with the Chicken dish. I have recommended it in earlier posts. For $8 on sale, it is a great value. I wish I had also brought the Falesco Vitiano from Umbria (under $10 and always an easy drinking Italian Red Blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Sangiovese) that would pair well with the red sauce dishes).

I welcome Gabby’s II with open arms. I know we all get set in our ways and remain loyal to our tried and true dinning establishments we frequent with family and friends. I too understand how easy it is to fall into that, but quality and taste are what we are after right? Everyone in the area should give Gabby’s II a try one night – instead of the usual Frank’s, Branda’s, Mamma’s or Pietro’s. I think you will taste the difference, I know I did. Their tagline is “Love at First Bite”, and they deliver on that promise.

Oh, and speaking of deliver – did I mention they will DELIVER! Hard to find a great Italian place that will drive your food to you around here anymore!

Gabby’s II: 908 850 1803 • 190 Mountain Ave., Hackettstown, NJ

Gabby’s in Flemington: 908 237 9990 • 203 Main Street, Historic Flemington, NJ

More information on their website and there is a coupon when you click “Specials”.

Buon Appetito!

Steve from the Trellis

©TalesFromTheTrellis, 2011

Note: My reviews are always uncompensated and honest – based upon my palette. Your taste/opinions may differ. I base my opinions not only on taste – but always a baseline of quality that is factual. I have no affiliation with any restaurants or wineries. Full disclosure: I am known to be extremely picky, critical and often brutally honest about food and wine, taste and preparation. I welcome any and all comments on this blog.




2 responses

10 03 2011

MOLTO Mario would be proud except no osso bucco on monday nite ouch. Buon Appeitto with a tuscan history lesson from the 1800s

11 03 2011

My wife and I tried Gabby’s II last weekend after it was recommended from friends. We tried the antipasto classico for an appetizer and were very impressed with the size and flavor. For our meals we chose to split two courses that caught our eye – the seafood combo which came with calamari, mussels, clams, and shrimp over pasta in a red sauce – and the grilled chicken with shrimp and brocolli in a garlic and oil sauce. Both meals were delicious and were so generous that we both had left overs for lunch the next day. The owner was also nice enough to give us a slice of the margharita chicago pan pizza to bring home. It was one of the best chicago style slices I have had around here and they had a lot of other options. I highly recommend Gabbys II for a family dinner or for you and your partner with a bottle of wine

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