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.
The kitchen resides to the east and bar spans the western wall of the bar area. Both point guests toward the impressive view of tree-laden eastern Oklahoma City and the Capitol dome peaking over the treetops in the south. The bar also has its own exterior entrance to the west, and a patio is outside the southeast corner of the restaurant. The remodel is remarkable.
But Duane isn't the only family member pitching in. Son Mike makes all the sausage from his own recipe, daughter Ashton Gabriella is not only the restaurant's namesake but chief pizza maker, and son Brandon works on the business and marketing side.
This family-owned and operated Italian restaurant looks poised to carve a niche among the city's family-style Italian restaurants. Vicki's four-page dinner menu includes pastas, pizza, steaks, seafood, salads and all the things you expect from an Italian restaurant with tables checkered in red and white. And then there's a few things you'll find you might not expect — like 29 beers on tap.
“My son is a craft beer fanatic,” Vicki said.
Add a rock-solid wine selection and you've got a stop where the whole family walks away satiated and satisfied.
For lunch, the menu is pared down, offering pizza, sandwiches, and salads.
Aside from the house-made sausage and bread, Ashton's pizzas are cooked in a new wood-burning oven built in Italy. And if you don't believe me, ask for kitchen-side table and watch the Muhs clan and crew do their nightly dinner dance.
On a trip for lunch I tried a wonderful sausage soup and excellent pizza. The homemade bread was tasty and the service on point.
Gabriella's is a great new addition to our local restaurant scene, and one of a very few places where you can eat a slice of pizza and get a slice of history on the house.