Founder of Namu Group, David Lee, has become one of the most prolific hospitality figures in our City. Only last month, his group opened a new restaurant on Ponsonby Road, Tobi, after opening a second Aigo outpost in Newmarket back in May. Now, Lee has just opened the doors to yet another new venture, Gemmi, this time in Commercial Bay, where it will sit alongside his other two venues in that precinct, Gochu and Pōni.
Gemmi is, at its heart, a pasta shop, a concept that Lee explains was inspired by simple Italian trattorias. Here, diners will find a relaxed, convivial vibe coupled with quick service and mouthwatering food that is never over-complicated. “I had yet to do a sole Italian spot,” Lee tells me, “but I have always enjoyed it and have incorporated some elements of Italian cuisine into my other sites.” He goes on, “At Gemmi, I wanted to offer simple classics with great ingredients served in a fast-paced, quirky environment… think delicious housemade pasta and sauces, burrata, tiramisu and more.”
The menu was developed by Namu Group’s Executive Head Chef, Yutak Son and is full of traditional Italian flavours with a few unique twists. To start, dishes like tuna tartare with basil, red onion, chillies, capers and lemon and delicate beef carpaccio with salsa verde and parmesan alongside the likes of pizza fritta (one with oyster mushrooms, blue cheese, walnuts and honey, the other with anchovies and nduja) and burrata. Larger plates include squid ink spaghetti with creamed paua and chives (one of Lee’s favourites, he tells me), rigatoni with spicy vodka sauce, fettuccine alla puttanesca and pappardelle with beef cheek ragu. Those with a sweet tooth will find solace in the time-honoured desserts of either a tiramisu or a lemon semifreddo served with extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt.
Gemmi’s drinks menu is also an ode to the classics, with Lee describing his wine list as “strong and approachable,” marrying New Zealand favourites with Italian and European varietals. These sit alongside a concise but considered cocktail offering, ranging from negroni to limoncello spritz to Americano and more, as well as beers from Urbanaut, Sawmill and Peroni.
The small but undeniably sleek space was brought to life by the talented team at CTRL Space to fit with Lee’s vision for a trattoria-style dining room that was comfortable and cool while still feeling somewhat elevated and elegant. “Gemmi is about having fun!” Lee says, “We want it to be the kind of casual, fun experience where you can grab some friends and smash a delicious pasta and enjoy some wine and lots of laughs, all while taking in our epic views over Auckland’s CBD.”
Open seven days from 11:30am until late, Gemmi offers Happy Hour from 4-5pm, perfect for after-work wines, as well as an express lunch option from 11:30am until 4pm, for those who just want to pop in for a quick, afternoon bite. Ultimately, Gemmi is a simple concept, perfectly executed, and is indeed a welcome addition to Commercial Bay’s dining line-up.
Monday – Sunday, 11:30am until 10pm
Level 2, Commercial Bay
7 Queen Street