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Gabriella's offers a taste of Krebs in historic Oklahoma City setting

Gabriella's Italian Grill and Pizzeria recently opened in the former County Line and Kentucky Club in Oklahoma City.
by Dave Cathey Modified: July 25, 2012 at 6:03 pm •  Published: July 26, 2012

For roughly half of Oklahoma's history the little town of Krebs has been known as the mecca for Italian food and culture. Now we can get a taste of Krebs without leaving Oklahoma City limits by taking a trip to Gabriella's Italian Grill and Pizzeria, 1220 NE 63 St.

Vicki Muhs' great uncle was Dominick Giacomo, who founded the Isle of Capri restaurant in 1950. She grew up working in the restaurant while learning to cook at home.

“I wanted to share the food I grew up with, and the best food we made at home,” Vicki said.

She put her skills on ice when she and her husband Duane moved to South Padre Island close to two decades ago. But the skills and desire never left her. In fact, they bubbled to the surface.

“After a few years, my husband could tell I missed cooking so he asked me if I wanted to open a restaurant, and I said ‘Yes,'” Vicki said. “So, we got everything together and opened Gabriella's on South Padre Island.”

The restaurant succeeded for 10 years before the chance to return to the red dirt of Oklahoma finally presented itself.

“We had a great time down in Texas, but we always wanted to come home,” Vicki said.

She said her husband's contracting business and the many opportunities he found in Texas are what took them away in the first place.

With 10 years experience running her own restaurant and Italian blood running through her veins, Vicki is now prepared to share the food of her heritage in her home state.

Gabriella's is not only rooted in Oklahoma history by blood but also by bricks and mortar. It resides in the space last occupied by County Line, but most notoriously by the Kentucky Club, which was known for gambling, shady ladies and scandalous busts. The building first housed the Silver Club in 1935, followed by the Oakcliff Nite Club, then the Kentucky Club in 1939.

The building survived those raids, a major fire and Father Time, though the last was part of the reason the County Line closed in 2010 after a three-decade run.

The building was in a poor state when the Muhs family took over, but having an experienced contractor as a patriarch has obvious advantages.

“My husband did a great job on this place,” Vicki said. “The place was in pretty bad shape.”

Once through the door, it's immediately apparent the place has been overhauled. A new deli counter is a few paces south of the entry, decorated with faux grapevine. The private booths are still in place, as is the central dining area. The place still has enough creaks to remind you you're walking through a historic building, but the bar area is where the most notable upgrade was performed.

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by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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