River View Observer “Best Pick” -Meatballs to die for and more!
Ten Ingredients- By Sally Deering
Photos by Newsboi
In 1934, Greek immigrant James Politis achieved the American Dream when he opened the Lackawanna Restaurant in Hoboken. Forty years later, his son George Politis opened GP’s East and two years later, the restaurant moved to its current Guttenberg location.
Fast-forward to July 2012 and GP’s expanded with George Politis, Jr. opening a second GP’s overlooking Hamilton Park in downtown Jersey City and serving an array of Neapolitan cuisine on the lighter side. GP’s at Hamilton Park features Crostinis, toast topped with Escarole & Fresh Ricotta; Smoked Salmon Rillette or Grilled Marinated Eggplant. Small Pressed Sandwiches include Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil; Grilled and Roasted Vegetables with Olive Spread and Proscuitto di Parma. Its Main Courses, Seared Sea Scallops, Crispy Salmon, Shrimp Scampi and Grilled Skirt Steak share the menu with GP’s Classics like Zuppa di Clams, Clams Oreganata, Eggplant Rollatini, Mussels, Lasagna Bolognese, Chicken Parmesan and, of course, GP’s Famous Meatballs. Owner and chef George Politis, Jr. grew up watching his mother and grandmother cook in the family kitchen in Hoboken. Chef Politis took time from his busy schedule to share with Riverview Observer some insights into what it takes to create GP’s tasty Neapolitan fare.
Let’s meet Chef George Politis, Jr.!
RVO: Chef Politis, can you tell our readers where you were born and raised?
GP: I was born and raised in Hoboken where most of my cooking influences come from.
RVO: How did you learn to cook?
GP: Having grown up in the business and watching my mother and grandmother cook was my inspiration. I was influenced by the quality of the ingredients they used – fresh vegetables and good extra virgin olive oil, fresh tomatoes in the summer. The vegetables they grew in the backyard would go from the backyard to the kitchen to the table.
RVO: What’s different about GP’s at Hamilton Park in Jersey City?
GP: There is a difference. GP’s in Guttenberg is all classic Italian-American dishes and GP’s at Hamilton Park offers a small classic dishes menu and a lot more small plates and salads. I would have to call it a lighter fare. The wine list is also more evolved.
RVO: How would you describe your cooking style?
GP: Simple, balanced flavors.
RVO: What is your philosophy when creating dishes?
GP: We buy locally the finest and freshest ingredients we can put together to make our dishes. Most importantly we price that dish effectively for our customers so they’re getting a value. We like to over-deliver.
RVO: Can you share what you consider one of your favorite dishes at GP’s at Hamilton Park?
GP: I love the Ricotta and Escarole Crostini. A crostini is a piece of toast topped with ingredients. We spread Greek ricotta cheese with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh sautéed escarole. It’s a nice combination. Our chicken breasts roasted with fresh beans and potatoes dish is simple and outstanding.
RVO: Do you have a quick recipe for our busy readers?
GP: Here’s a quick recipe that can be done in seven minutes: Perciatelli Pomodoro with Fresh Ricotta. Sauté two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, two cloves of minced garlic and one cup of peeled, fresh plum tomatoes. Sauté that for four minutes until the garlic is golden and the tomatoes are softened, then add a quarter cup of white wine and a good quality Romano cheese. Plate the pasta and the tomatoes and finish it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil. And if you’re feeling adventurous, add a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese on top and mix it as you eat.
RVO: Let’s talk GP’s Famous Meatballs. They are really delicious. Is there anything you can tell us about the recipe without divulging family secrets?
GP: The recipe originated with my grandmother and mother and over the course of the last 15 years, we have constantly refined the recipe to get it just right. We took something that was already great and tinkered with it until it got outstanding. Half the battle is the sauce. If the sauce is no good, the meatballs taste lousy. My advice to anyone making meatballs is to use a lot of parsley. That does something to meatballs that makes them great. We have a meatball cart and we sell mini meatball sandwiches at street fairs and parties.
RVO: The family is Greek but you cook Sicilian dishes?
GP: Mom is Italian and Dad is Greek. That explains the Greek Salad on our Guttenberg restaurant’s menu.
RVO: What was the most important thing you learned about the restaurant business from you father and/or grandfather?
GP: I learned appreciation for your customer and always looking for opportunities to serve your customer. Food is important and when it’s coupled with great service, the customers are compelled to come back. If you’re starting a restaurant, I would say listen to your customers. That goes back to our Famous Meatballs. We didn’t think the customers wanted meatballs and for the first 15-20 years, we didn’t serve them. Then we received calls for it and now we sell more meatballs than anything else.
If you go:
GP’s restaurant at Hamilton Park
236 Pavonia Avenue Jersey City 201-418-8800
GP’s in Guttenberg
24 69th Street 201-861-6588
For more info, visit www.gpsrestaurant.com