The cuisine at this popular Levittown, Pa., destination is continental with a lean toward Italian.

By: Dawn Nikithser

Gabrielle’s Restaurant

5301 Emilie Road

Levittown, Pa.

(215) 946-9996
Food: Good

Service: Poor

Prices: Moderate

Cuisine: Continental Italian

Ambiance: Elegant and romantic

Hours: Lunch: Tues.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Fri. 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; Dinner: Tues.-Thurs., Sun. 4-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 4-10 p.m.

Essentials: Accepts all major credit cards; wheelchair accessible; catering available, private parties can be accommodated; main restaurant sets 130, bar an additional 30, and "Green House" room another 65; special menus for Mother’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day and New Year’s Eve; reservations recommended on holidays and weekends.


   When a restaurant is recommended by friends, it generally means you’re in for a treat when you visit the place. Sometimes you wind up disappointed. We left Gabrielle’s in Levittown, Pa., with decidedly mixed feelings.
   Gabrielle’s has been in the area for 13 years, attached to the Capri club, a drinking and entertainment establishment that has been an area staple for half a century. The restaurant is located at the intersection of Emilie and Cinder roads, in a locale mostly composed of industrial buildings and small residences. The exterior of the place is huge, with a sizeable parking lot.
   The interior is lovely — all muted colors and soft lights, very romantic and elegant. Gabrielle’s has the kind of décor that makes it an ideal place for dates and special occasions. The catering department deals with private events on a regular basis, including small wedding receptions and large parties. Tables and chairs are a shining dark wood with immaculate white tablecloths. The atmosphere is relaxed, almost dreamy. Additionally, a half-wall separates the dining area from the attractive but much more modern bar, allowing drinking patrons and dining patrons to enjoy their respective privacy.
   Gabrielle’s has a good menu. The cuisine is continental, with a lean toward Italian and a great deal of seafood. Daily specials are also inserted, and there are apparently other blackboard specials available as well, though we were not apprised of these by our server: We noticed them on the board on our way out of the restaurant.
   Entrées are accompanied by either soup or salad and appropriate sides. Desserts are both on the menu and brought on a tray. There is also a serviceable wine list, with a good selection of by-the-glass whites and reds, and inexpensive to moderate bottles. The owner, Joe Simeone, has also been known to store special wines for regular guests and can get more expensive offerings if a special dinner is in the works. A full bar is available, along with a nice selection of dessert cordial coffees.
   Gabrielle’s offers an excellent selection of appetizers. All have mouthwatering descriptions that make it hard to decide. I opted for the roasted red peppers marinated in garlic, olive oil and basil, served with sharp Provolone cheese ($5.95). I was assured the peppers were roasted in-house, which helped my decision along. My companion chose the lobster ravioli ($6.95). Once we ordered, we were served fresh, warm rolls with three butter choices — plain, garlic and chive/cheese, all made in-house and very tasty — and a complimentary crudité plate with a dollop of vegetable dip in the middle. The crudité plate was simple — just carrots, celery and cucumbers, but there could have been a few more pieces of both — and the celery was not looking its finest. The dip was good, clearly homemade, though a touch bland. Crudité offerings change seasonally; I was later told by the owner that this particular vegetable selection was "the best that was available" at this time of year.
   The peppers were very well done. At first bite, the garlic was strong and packed a powerful punch. The peppers were roasted expertly, with no charred black skin bits anywhere in sight, and the simple marinade really allowed the pepper’s natural sweetness to shine. The accompanying cheese was sharp, sharper than you find in most restaurants, which pleased me immensely. It was a welcome change from the typical tasteless Provolone too often served these days.
   My companion’s lobster ravioli, a particular favorite for her, was also excellent. Three large ravioli were served in a tomato cream sauce, served piping hot with grated Parmesan on top. The flavors blended nicely, and there were visible chunks of lobster inside each perfectly cooked pasta pocket. These were some of the best lobster ravioli my companion ever encountered, leading one to wonder why it’s not also offered as an entrée.
   As one of our entrées, my companion couldn’t resist a house specialty, Steak Gabrielle — a broiled New York strip steak topped with sautéed shrimp, scallops and mushrooms in a wine, shallot and cream sauce ($28.95). The steak was lovely and tender, though a touch more medium than medium-rare. The meat had great flavor, tasting almost aged, and the scallops and shrimp were perfect. The accompanying garlic-bacon-chive potatoes were excellent, mashed perfectly and not overwhelmingly seasoned or salty, a great trick considering the ingredients. The vegetable served with the meat was a little unusual. There were green beans, which were fine, with some kind of strange, unidentifiable breaded topping. It was unattractive as well, detracting from the overall appearance of the plate, though it tasted good enough. The cream sauce kind of got on everything. While tasty, it was rich and detracted from the flavor of the meat. Served with a lighter hand, it might have been better.
   My entrées — yes, two of them — did not go as well. I initially ordered the vodka seafood fettuccini ($24.95). When it was brought to the table, it looked and smelled wonderful. Its menu description included shrimp, scallops, lobster and lump crabmeat. Although the shrimp, scallops and crabmeat were immediately visible, the lobster was strangely absent. I eventually found it, but it looked more like tiny langostinos or crawfish tails than lobster.
   It was not served with grated cheese, so I asked for some to be brought to the table. By the time our waitress returned with it, I had to send back the meal — my first two bites tasted fishy, a big no-no when it comes to shellfish. So I opted instead for the veal Parmesan ($16.95). Sadly, this was also a disappointment. I asked if it was made with fresh mozzarella and was assured that was so, but the somewhat waxy, flavorless topping on the meat tasted and looked like processed cheese. Certainly, if it was fresh, someone needs to talk to the supplier.
   Further, the breading on the veal fell off in whole sheets, leaving me with flavorless and somewhat tough veal patties, with no steak knife until I requested one. The tomato sauce, what I had of it, was good though not great, and there was way too much of it.
   Desserts went a long way toward making up for my entrées, but there were still some problems. A dessert tray was brought with the menu. Everything looked lovely, and some extra items not on the tray or the menu were described to us by a different waitress, while ours stood by with her order pad. I opted for the tartufo, an Italian ice cream dessert described on the menu as "chocolate and vanilla ice cream with a maraschino cherry surrounded by almonds dipped in chocolate." My companion went with carrot cake. We both ordered coffee as well.
   The desserts were served without utensils. We waited for some to be brought, but our waitress was nowhere to be seen. We took forks from another table.
   The tartufo ($4) was very good, though not quite as described. For one thing, there were no almonds in sight. Also, the entire dessert was dipped in chocolate, and there seemed to be a sprinkle of coconut on top. It was delicious, and though I missed the almonds, I was very pleased with the overall taste. The carrot cake ($3.25) also was very good, if a little raisin-heavy. Our coffee was great, full-flavored and served in generous mugs.
   The service was really lacking the night we ate at Gabrielle’s. Yes, it was a Wednesday and yes, it was past the prime dinner hour when we arrived. But the restaurant was not crowded — only two other tables were occupied — so I cannot figure out why the service was such a problem. The time between courses was too long, the right utensils were not served with the right food items, and I had to go and find our waitress when I wanted to pay the check. Add to that her failure to mention the blackboard specials and it equals inattentive service.
   Gabrielle’s came recommended as a great Italian place in Bucks County. Considering it’s been in the same location for 13 years, I hope the inconsistencies we experienced — good appetizers but problematic entrées, good desserts but incorrect descriptions, service lapses — happened because we caught the staff on an off night.
For directions to Gabrielle’s, click here.