We walk in, instantly greeted by a friendly face welcoming you to Ristorante Gilardi’s, and it feels as though we’ve suddenly entered a restaurant in a different city far from Springfield, Missouri.
The rustic red walls enhance the striking paintings hung from them, pulling my eyes in every direction imaginable as we are led to our perfectly set table.
Our waiter for the evening, Bill, pulls the chairs from their resting place gesturing for us to please sit and enjoy the next two hours of our evening. We make ourselves comfortable in the wood and leather bound chairs as Bill asks us what wines to bring for us to taste. The wines arrive, and we choose that which will satisfy our thirst most. Our server excuses himself to give us time to peruse the menu, but not before wowing us with the specialty dishes of the evening.
Leafy vines cascade from atop the solid wood built-ins which house a wall of various wines from all over the world, of which we had a perfect view from our table. The restaurant has a life of its own, from the oak fireplace behind us to the many mirrors hanging on the wall. Candles shine dancing light against the walls which seemingly sway back and forth to Ella Fitzgerald as she sweetly serenades us in the background. The light smell of rosemary and lemon fill my senses with a blissful calm as I meld into our surroundings. The atmosphere is elegant, tranquil and dignified: the owner has spared no expense in making this experience rich and flavorful, and we, his very grateful patrons.
An Experience to Be Remembered
The meal begins as all wonderful Italian meals should with fresh baked Italian baguettes and garlic and herb whipped butter. Served in a sweet little basket with the perfectly creamy condiment on the side, it is the unspoiled introduction for our taste buds.
Our waiter arrives with three mouth-watering appetizers. He places them gently on the table, giving detailed descriptions of each as the mixed fragrances of impeccably prepared Italian-influenced cuisine fills our senses.
Polpette Al Vino Bianco E Crema, Sicilian meatballs immersed in a red wine and rosemary infused cream sauce, served over a bed of rosemary and goat cheese polenta.
Smoked Trout Fonduta, comprised of roasted garlic cheese fondue mixed with organic winter greens, Terrell Creek goat cheese, Rockbridge smoked trout, and mozzarella served with homemade herb crostini’s.
Seafood Cakes with Lemon Aioli, house mixture of blue crab claws, Atlantic white fish, panko and fresh herbs, served with lemon aioli.
Every one of these is fantastic, however, my partner nearly loses her mind over the seafood cakes. So much so that I end up giving her my share so she would stop staring at me with her ravenous eyes. As I reluctantly disregard my desire to gobble up the rest of my seafood cake, I look up to see Bill approaching with two more servings of irresistible dishes.
The next round of our outing to Gilardi’s included their Caesar Salad, Autumn Salad, and Specialty Soup.
Insalata Caesar is a traditional Caesar salad made with fresh romaine hearts, drizzled with their onion honey balsamic reductions, topped with grated parmesan cheese and homemade croutons. The sweetness of the reduction coupled with the crispness of the lettuce left me wanting to eat this salad every day- without fail.
Insalata Di Autunno- this incredible salad of mixed greens, dried cranberries, toasted pumpkin seeds, Terrell Creek goat cheese, drizzled with a spiced honey Dijon vinaigrette is an explosion of flavor all at once and in the best way possible.
Soup Di Giorno- A specialty soup we would all love the recipe for is the Zucchini and Prosciutto Soup. Their blended zucchini, carrot, fresh ginger from Millsap Farms and cream soup is garnished with baked prosciutto, red onion and chives and goes down in my book as one of the best lightly creamed soups I have had to date.
By this point, my partner and I are busting at the seams with rich, decadent food, but we are not willing to give up so easily. It is time for the entrée’s and we are ready to be taken away to even more unique, succulent pairings of tastes. Bill arrives with stuffed ravioli, grilled salmon, cheese stuffed tortellini. He kindly offers fresh cracked black pepper and grated parmesan before soundlessly withdrawing to his secret corner, leaving us to decide from which dish to begin.
Homemade Stuffed Ravioli- Made with Scottish highland ground beef- we were informed the cow was called Rio and let me be the first to say he was Rio’ly delicious- and hand-made pasta, topped with butter and sage brown sauce. Thanks, Rio!
Pesce Del Giorno– grilled 6 oz wild caught sockeye salmon topped with local honey from the owner, James Martin’s, mother’s bee colony that has been reduced to a glaze. The salmon is served on a bed of rice pilaf, sautéed vegetables and a lemon mustard sauce.
Tortellini Al Formaggio Proscuitto E Piselli– Pasta stuffed with four Italian cheeses, tossed in a rich cream sauce with mushrooms sweet peas and imported prosciutto ham from Parma, Italy. The name may be a mouthful, but that should not deter you from simplifying and asking for the cheese stuffed tortellini- it is to die for.
My partner and I have eaten until we are so uncomfortably full we couldn’t possibly take another bite. We are happy and smitten with everything we have had the pleasure of stuffing ourselves with. Bill has been diligent the whole night to ensure that we have had a clean table, and this moment is no exception. Before we can say thank you, Bill places his palms together, smiles and asks, “Are you ladies ready for some dessert? We have our 2-tiered chocolate cake for you this evening.” My partner and I exchange uncomfortable glances, return our gaze to Bill and respond simultaneously, “I have room for cake!”
Though we want to regret our swift yes to the cake, we cannot because shortly after our agreeing to it, Bill returns with a luscious, generous helping of the chocolate coma-inducing guilty pleasure. It is accompanied by a ribbon of chocolate mousse, and raspberry gelato. Both my partner and my eyes flutter as the mouthwatering piece is set in between us. We dig in before meaning to letting loose intermittent sighs of pure delight.
The Man, The Legend, The Legacy
James Martin is a man with a purpose. His restaurant sets the bar for all other fine dining establishments from the organic garden covering every inch of land available on his historic property to the locally-bought cheeses and farm fresh meats. His vision is to maintain Gilardi’s legacy as a business which will continue to support local businesses and become the “national model for sustainable restaurants.”
WeDames Online Magazine had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Martin throughout the evening about his nearly unrivaled restaurant. He stated that he does everything possible to uphold Gilardi’s status as a premier place for fresh taste through the consistent unwavering assistance of his own produce and other indigenous crops from farms such as, but not limited to, Queen City Farms, Terrell Creek Farms, and Millsap Farms…and we can vouch for the fresh taste.
Mr. Martin seems to have his hands in everything and smartly so, whether it be catering, hosting weddings in his historic Gray Gables built in 1895 by Wm. C Rogers, or as establishing his own greenhouse where he nurtures the seedlings that will eventually feed all those who flock to Ristorante Gilardi’s.
If you are looking for a quick place to dash in and out of, satisfying your hunger with mere survival food, then this is definitely not the restaurant for you. There is a difference between survival and art: art transcends survival, thus said, Gilardi’s food is for those who wish to experience their food and atmosphere instead of merely getting rid of their hunger pains.
For fine-dining in Springfield, we can safely say WeDames gives Ristorante Gilardi’s a 10 out of 10. When was the last time you treated yourself to a fine dining experience?
Call me if you are heading that way and need company!
820 E. Walnut St.
Springfield, Mo 65806