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Sidebars: Gamba Ristorante consistently top notch

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Indiana Lawyer Commentary

SidebarsBe it your law practice, your favorite athlete or sports team, your relationships, or a restaurant, consistent quality is the true measure of any endeavor. Anybody can have a good day and hit a bull’s-eye once and a while out of sheer luck. To keep hitting that target repeatedly is the challenge, especially with the inevitable bad day sprinkled in.

For approximately 20 years, Benito and Hilda Gamba have hit bull’s-eye after bull’s-eye. Starting with Café Venezia in the late 1980s, and then branching out with Venezia Grill in the 1990s, the Gambas delivered top-notch Italian cuisine. That tradition continues with Gamba, a custom-built facility that combines the better of their past two restaurants in Merrillville, Indiana.

A mid-morning court appearance in a neighboring county placed me in perfect position to join my lifelong friend, Mark Thiros, of Merrillville’s Thiros & Stracci, for lunch at Gamba. Any occasion to visit with Mark is a good one, and one-on-one over a quality two-hour lunch is about as good as it gets, even sans wine. But let’s talk about the experience.

As I said, this is a custom-built facility that, at first blush, seems a bit oddly shaped. It is a round building with the restaurant and bar areas flanking the outside portions of the perimeter while nestled in the core is the kitchen and banquet facility. Modeled after upscale European restaurants, this wonderfully efficient design can manage plenty of restaurant seating along with a banquet of up to 200 people, plus about 1,000 bottles of wine storage. In the center is an open courtyard, adding to the charm of the building.

After being greeted by a smiling hostess and immediately seated, our wait-staff placed a basket of warm baguette slices on the table with rich, firm butter and a clear glass bowl of sliced Serrano peppers soaked in olive oil. While appearing intimidating, the latter really isn’t. The peppers aren’t in the oil long enough to noticeably affect the flavor, but if you wanted to add a little flair to your bread you are welcome to pile on as many peppers as you like. This touch provided a uniquely pleasant way to open the meal.

For starters, Mark ordered the split pea with mushroom soup while I chose the pasta fagioli. I’m not a split pea soup guy but my sample of Mark’s gave me pause to change my belief. The subtle mushroom flavor fully added to the rich fresh pea-based puree. My soup was unlike my native Italian grandmother’s. Hers was chicken-broth based with stewed tomatoes, spinach, beans and pasta. Gamba’s version is vegetable-broth based without tomatoes. At the waitress’ suggestion I requested fresh spinach in my bowl and after adding a dollop of the Serrano infused olive oil I nearly had a meal.

I selected the Grilled Mahi Mahi with Brandy Cream Sauce for my entrée while Mark picked the Spicy Spaghetti. Each choice was from the daily special menu or, for you Italian speakers, the Speciali Del Giorno. My dish was simple yet elegantly presented. The grilled fish was outstanding and its flavor was able to hold its own balanced against the sauce. Far too often lesser restaurants tend to overly drape a dish like this in its sauce in an effort to disguise poor quality seafood. Such is not the case at Gamba. Mark’s pasta was laced with chicken, diced tomato, crushed red pepper, garlic, olive oil and finally finished with an arugula pesto. Bright and flavorful, Mark was pleased overall with his selection and after I sampled it we shared the same criticism. The pasta was slightly undercooked, even by al dente standards. That is one small flaw that can be easily fixed so I offer no gavel reduction for that slight mishap by the chef.

Only about a mile from I-65, make this your luncheon or dining choice if you are ever in the Lake County area. Of the dozen or so times I’ve dined at one of the Gamba’s restaurants over the years, I’ve never had a bad experience. Benito “Benny” Gamba is always there, gracing your table to make sure you are satisfied. If you go, call Mark. It’s one of his favorite spots too. Gamba Ristorante, 455 East 84th Drive, Merrillville, IN. 219.736.5000. www.gambaristorante.com•

Fred Vaiana and Jennifer M. Lukemeyer practice at Voyles Zahn Paul Hogan & Merriman in Indianapolis, focusing in criminal defense. The opinions expressed in this column are the authors’.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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