Of course there is octopus on the menu. Could you name your restaurant Gertie and the Giant Octopus and not offer something with tentacles?
The Gig Harbor restaurant quietly opened almost two weeks ago. The 24-seat dinner-only restaurant is in Uptown Gig Harbor next door to the Galaxy Theatre.
Although the tiny bistro’s name sounds like a children’s book, Robert Mario DeLaura named the restaurant with a nod to the sunken lore of Gig Harbor. The name harkens to the giant octopus under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge along with the remnants of Galloping Gertie, the famous bridge that collapsed into the Narrows in 1940.
DeLaura’s one-page menu covers broad Mediterranean territory with nods to Italy, France and Spain.
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DeLaura is a former Navy cook who holds culinary degrees from Western Culinary Institute and other formal cooking programs. He worked as a chef in Michigan, where he’s from, before landing in the Northwest in kitchens from Portland to Seattle. He previously owned Nu Cafe in Portland, which he closed to pursue work as a restaurant consultant.
Here’s a first-bite look of Gertie and the Giant Octopus. It’s this paper’s policy to withhold criticism of a restaurant’s food and service in its first month.
Dining room: The long, narrow room spent its former life as a cupcake shop, but is now a charming bistro with bench seating spanning the length of the room. The wood banquette holds tables for two to four. A dine-in bar seats about a half dozen. Fabric-covered panels carry an octopus pattern (sensing the theme?).
In the details: Fun mismatched plates lent a casual air, as did the laid-back service inviting visitors to pick a seat wherever they like. It’s suitable for celebrations, but also for a quick bite and glass of wine before a movie. The day’s specials are scrawled on two chalkboards near the kitchen door.
The menu: The short menu invites building a meal from small plates. A bulk of the menu — 10 of 14 dishes— are small plates and salads.
Small plates and salads: Four small plates ranging from almond-stuffed grilled dates ($8) to Parmesan battered eggplant with tomato sauce and mozzarella ($12). Seafood small plate selections include grilled calamari with red chili sauce ($12) and sauteed wild shrimp with olive oil, garlic, chili and lemon ($8 small/$14 large). Salads include endive with beets, hazelnut and blue cheese ($13); and a fennel-arugula-orange salad with olives, feta, hazelnuts and lemon ($9).
Entrees: Four, including a steak ($28), butter-roasted chicken breast with lemon brown butter sauce ($16), fish of the day (market price) and a pasta ($17). Don’t miss the specials chalkboard for more choices.
For sipping: 14 wines, with selections by the bottle ($27-$43) or glass ($8-$10). The list included viognier, chardonnay, syrah, sangiovese, cava and rosé. The craft beer list included local breweries Narrows Brewing and Gig Harbor Brewing Co.
Nonalcoholic list: Thoughtful nod to nondrinkers with a choice of two kombuchas and bottled specialty sodas. Tazo teas and Bluebeard coffee served.
On a first visit: Start with the chickpea polenta fries ($9) with a creamy aioli threaded with black olives, along with the chilled octopus salad with an astringent sherry vinaigrette dressing. Crunchy chopped cucumbers, celery and red peppers mingled with creamy bits of chilled potatoes and octopus cut into chunky blocks ($13).
From the entree list, get the grilled 14-ounce New York steak ($28), enough to feed two, simply dressed with sea salt, olive oil and a wedge of lemon. The steak came flanked by a small plate of roasted Yukon golds.
Also try the pasta with lamb ragu, a slow cooked sauce with kalamata olives and tomatoes, clinging to slinky pappardelle noodles ($17).
Save room for dessert: Fudgy, rich flourless chocolate cake, dusted with cocoa and topped with creamy vanilla ice cream, $6.
Gertie and the Giant Octopus
Where: 4747 Point Fosdick Dr. N.W., Gig Harbor; 253-649-0921; facebook.com/RobertMarioDeLaura.
Serving: Dinner beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays. Open at 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays.