Sometimes I just want pasta. More specifically, pasta with pesto. There is something severely comforting about pesto pasta and shrimp. It brings me back to one of my favorite childhood dinners involving a Knorr packet of creamy pesto—a powder brought to life with olive oil and water, a little stirring and patience. Somehow, that packet is what I expect pesto to taste like, as inauthentic as it is.
This particular Sunday, that is what I was craving, but we decided on dining out. Lucky for us (yes, us, not just me—my yearnings can be dangerous), GP’s in Jersey City had the pasta dish to satiate my hankering.
GP’s is a sweet little spot next to the even sweeter Hamilton Park. There’s a high ceilinged bar area in the front, some tables and a more intimate dining space, with dim lighting for atmosphere. The menu is typical of an Italian American spot, playing into the family-style feeling emanated by the tall red wall lined with photos.
There are antipasti like cheese plates and special crostini. That night a homemade burrata served with green olives, prosciutto, toasty croutons, peppers and a tart sweet balsamic reduction was highlighted. The burrata was not stringy and sticky at its center, there was no stretch and pull, but it was like soft ricotta, salt-less and rustic.
Small plates like smoked salmon outfitted with accoutrements and Gorgonzola polenta, mix familiarity with freshness. The meatballs drenched in a homey tomato sauce and heavily dusted with grated Parmesan, are the perfect example. A bit of home out, meaty but perhaps over-loved.
After a range of salads, a standard pasta selection—maccheroni Bolognese, spaghetti pomodoro, orecchiette with broccoli rabe, etc. The list finishes with homemade gnocchi with pesto and shrimp.
Exactly what I came for. The gnocchi were plump pillows, doughy, with a floury aftertaste. They were swimming in a thick and creamy pesto sauce, sweetened by the succulence of the scant shrimp. The first few bites were all the things that I wanted, but it was thick on the tongue, heavy and slow going.
Of the classics, the chicken parmigiana was intriguing in the most traditional of ways. We asked for pesto sauce on the homemade spaghetti in efforts to mimic a favorite. The portion was just enough, a healthy balance of overworked protein and delicate and chewy pasta.
And the classics continued with dessert, a flourless chocolate cake and cheesecake, to name a few, but the seasonal came into play as well. A dense cheesecake laden with a thick layer of sweet fig was paired with a tangy fruit sauce, a little citrus to cut the intense sweet.
GP’s converges traditional with the now in an effort to create something timeless and timely. There is quality with some slippage but most importantly, feelings of familiarity, like a place where grandma could very well be stirring the sauce and your great friend is pouring your drink.