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Real road warriors are also foodies. It’s an inevitability of a life spent crisscrossing the globe. And we road warriors pride ourselves on finding the real essence of food in a particular city. I’m personally proud of having found the best Asian fusion in L.A., the best Afghani food in New York and the best deli in Detroit. As for Italian, the best fare wasn’t found in Chicago or St. Louis, but in a strip mall in South Padre Island, Texas.


Gabriella’s Italian Grill & Pizzeria is the No. 1-ranked restaurant on the island, according to both TripAdvisor and Urbanspoon. But it’s also the favorite among locals, who willingly wait up to an hour and a half for a table. It’s that good.

“Most areas have an Italian mainstay,” says co-owner Arnie Creinin, an executive chef of more than 20 years who has cooked for Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush Sr., as well as foreign dignitaries. “We don’t. This is it. Our Italian is so good because every single dish is homemade and done in-house with very strict recipe guidelines.”

Creinin, along with co-owner Rick Masso, took the reins earlier this year and expanded on what had already been a staple around the island for nine years. “The average chef has been here over five years,” Creinin says, “so they have the recipes down cold. Everyone here is committed to quality, and everyone here is committed to being committed.”

Be sure to try the clams-casino pizza and the osso buco with risotto. And be sure to bring in this issue of American Way to receive 10 percent off your bill. Open on Thanksgiving.

700 Padre Blvd.
(956) 761-6111
www.gabriellasspi.com