Forza Elio!

Strolling down the uneven cobblestones and sidewalks of East Chestnut Street has quite the Neapolitan feel to it. The scooters and bikes line the brick town building to the right and an Italian flag is hanging to the left. This side street is Nantucket’s little slice of Napoli and when I’m walking toward Pizzeria Gemelle on a summer afternoon I’m engulfed by the smells of roasting tomatoes, fresh-picked basil, and the “Pizza Belly” – the affectionate name for Gemelle’s oven. Some days I close my eyes and imagine the landscape of Campania and Mount Vesuvius towering over the town in the distance.

Gemelle is Italy and the man behind the pizza is this island’s very own Pizzaiolo. What’s a Pizzaiolo? Simply put, it’s a person who has perfected the art of pizza. And by pizza I’m not talkin’ your New York style cheese pizza, I’m talkin’ triple fermented dough, San Marzano tomatoes that are actually from San Marzano, mozzarella cheese made in house, locally grown herbs and vegetables, and a whole lot of love. Elio DiMambro screams Italy. He makes pizza as pizza should be made: with lots and lots of passion. He’s got the look of a Pizzaiolo and as he tosses the dough below the hanging flags of his beloved AS Roma, he always seems to hold on to a smile. It’s like a dance – he’s focused, he’s happy, and he’s doing what he loves to do.

As I stepped into the pizzeria recently I happened to catch it in a special moment. Italy was playing Belgium in the quarter finals of the UEFA Euro Cup. They had the 2-1 lead, but the pizza orders kept coming in. The passion filled the room as the staff made quick movements while keeping their eyes on the TV blaring with the background cheers of “Forza Italia!” Elio’s passion has clearly rubbed off on the staff of Gemelle and sister restaurants Ventuno and Via Mare.

The crew still managed to quickly put together my steaming-hot pie in just under three minutes. The oven, aka “Pizza Belly” constantly holds a temperature over 700 degrees just like those that line the streets of Napoli. They let me hang and watch the second half while I enjoyed their summer pie featuring roasted Fog Town Farm zucchini, their mozzarella, pecorino, and basil. This thing is to die for. The fresh tastes of summer are paired with two salty cheeses and their perfectly pulley dough. There was one thing missing and they completed the deal with a delicious light red from Sicily by legendary female winemaker Arianna Occhipinti. In no time I was screaming “Forza, Forza, Forza” right along with the gang.

I’ve always been a big fan of the scene down at Gemelle, but it’s the flavor and quality of ingredients that make it second to none. I highly recommend the Emilia for a classic, the Capricciosa for antipasti heaven, and my favorite, the Calabrese;  a cheeseless pie with spicy ‘nduja that you must experience while on Nantucket. Oh, and don’t forget to ask for some holy oil, it’ll give a nice kick from Italy’s boot.

Gemelle is now open six days and closed on Monday’s. Give Elio a call at (508) 901-5958, order online, or stop in for all of the sights, sounds, and smells of a true pizzeria.

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