Gemelli's in Cleveland is a great spot for cheesy calzones and fair prices.

Tiffany Simms/ Lee Clarion

It all started with a calzone.

It was lunchtime. I was hungry. But I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to eat, it was as if I was bored with all the options that surrounded me. I remembered there was a new little restaurant that I'd been passing on Ocoee Street on my way to campus every day. I hadn’t remembered seeing it last semester—it was as though it magically appeared, advertising “all-day breakfast.” I thought, “Waffles are always a good idea.”

When I arrived, I was met with an amazing menu with all kinds of choices: burgers, waffles, gyros—and calzones.

I remembered that I had been craving both waffles and calzones all week (I had just finished binge-watching Parks and Recreation the day before), but I settled on the calzone.

It was the biggest and most beautiful calzone I had ever seen. Warm cheese and marinara oozed out of the flaky baked dough. It was delicious, and I was full after eating only half of it. Even so, I began to think about dessert.

I found room for a couple bites of baklava. It was perfect. The flaky filo layers with the sweetened flavour of honey with the nuts were so worth it.

That was the beginning of my love for a little restaurant called Gemelli’s.

Gemelli’s is a local Italian pizzeria owned by Juan Luis Beltran. Originally named “Twins’ Pizza”, he would later change the name to Gemelli’s, derived from the Spanish word for twin, gemelo. He felt as though gemelli, the Italian word for twins, had a better sound to it and helped to categorize it as an Italian restaurant.

Juan Luis originally emigrated from Mexico to Chicago in 1986 before going back to Mexico. In the 90s, he returned to the United States to assist his uncle with an Italian restaurant in Athens, Tenn. For many years, he worked in Tenn., helping others with their restaurants, including the opening of new restaurants. Eventually, he knew that he needed to do something for himself: “Instead of helping other people open their business, I decided to try it on my own, and here we are.”

He and a friend started looking for places where he could open up a restaurant and discovered a quaint spot for sale in Cleveland. He saw the need for a relaxing dine-in restaurant that also offered delicious but fast and economical food. Considering that there was nothing of this nature in Cleveland, he opened what we now know as Gemelli’s.

It's been a little over a year since Juan Luis and his wife first opened the restaurant. He attempts to market it as a fast-food restaurant that offers a dine-in environment. He says, “I think it’s a good place to go to have a good pizza, sit down and relax.”

It offers a variety of styles including “pizza pockets” (a.k.a. calzones), a popular menu item among customers, along with pizza. Juan Luis himself likes a little bit of everything, especially the gyro and steak sandwich and always the pizzas (hence the great selections on the menu).

I must confess: I love food.  But in the same way that it’s difficult for a movie-lover to have a favourite movie, it’s hard for me to narrow down what kind of food I want to eat for lunch. Gemelli’s is my solution to that problem.

You see, this place has almost everything: traditional American food including sandwiches ranging from burgers to tuna; delicious Italian food including pastas, pizza, calzones and manicotti; flavorsome Greek gyros to rich baklava; savory Tex-Mex; and satisfying breakfast, omelettes and waffles, etc. There’s salad too, if you’re into that sort of thing. As Juan Luis says, “There’s something for everyone!”

Juan Luis believes that what makes Gemelli’s different is that they offer different specials on their menu items, such as a 2-for-1 pizza deal, a salad bar with your choice of pizza, and a family meal of pizza, salad and breadsticks.

They offer a reward system for regular customers. After ten visits, you receive a free sandwich. They also offer services such as drive-thru and take-out, but dining-in gives fast service, too. The average price for an entrée ranges from $6-$9. Although a drink comes at an additional cost with the meal, Gemelli’s offers unlimited self-serve refills.

While the menu appears large at times, Juan Luis says that it really came together naturally. While there are many options, there are few ingredients with multiple uses. “Little bit of products, but big variety on the menu,” Juan Luis says.

When I asked a customer if they enjoyed their food, they said, “I probably like it too much!” Another customer told me that their favourite thing to get is the breakfast, adding that they can get a good traditional southern breakfast and it’s always cooked just right.

Personally, as a frequent customer, I think the pizzas are some of the best in town. They have the right ratio of sauce, cheese and toppings with a good crust. It’s impossible to not eat multiple slices. They also have an awesome burger served with crispy fries. They have the same taste as an all-American classic diner style. I love to get their breakfast with a cheesy omelette and waffles.

Having tried a variety of food on the menu, everything has been flavorful. The food tastes fresh and homemade—something that your mama might make. It is like having home cooking away from home. I think Gemelli’s has something for everyone’s appetite while also being easy on the budget, too. I recommend grabbing a friend and giving it a try.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

Gemelli’s is located 2153 N Ocoee St (right across from Ocoee Middle School), open 11AM-9PM Monday-Thursday and Saturday, 11AM-10PM Friday, and 11AM-8PM Sunday.

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