Gas Lamp owner and chef Danny Augello is a veteran of the kitchen.
Gas Lamp owner and chef Danny Augello is a veteran of the kitchen.

The first thing I noticed was the murals on the walls of the little building at the corner of Pueblo and Holcomb. They’re colorful and look a bit like graffiti but are recognizable scenes. The wall paintings were done by Joe C. Rock, a local spray-can artist. Chef/owner Danny Augello commissioned the work, and Augello knows art.

His true art is inside the building. When you walk in, to the left is a full-service bar that seats 40, and the dinner room is to the right. An eclectic collection of tables, chairs and hutches that look like they came out of your grandmother’s house gives the room some character. It’s cozy, holds 50, and the polite wait staff makes you feel welcome.

Augello is a veteran in the kitchen. He opened a little more than three and a half years ago. He’s a graduate of the renowned California Culinary Institute in San Francisco and before moving to Reno, spent the better part of a decade at Sam’s, a legendary burger and seafood establishment on the Tiburon waterfront. His sister Debbie is at his side, and she’s a great pastry chef in her own right.

It’s not a big menu, and Augello changes it to highlight seasonal foods. It lists First, Second and Third to separate appetizers ($5-$9.50) from soup and salads ($5-$16), and entrées ($10-$23). The offerings are a la carte. To start, I went with the ahi tuna tartare served over a molded, chopped avocados with wonton crisps ($9.50).

He dribbles it with a sauce of red pepper oil, black and white sesame seeds and a touch of Hoi Son. Just enough spice in the sauce to congeal the creamy avocado with the subtle, fresh fish and create a flavor profile satisfying with every bite. And delivered on the crisp, it adds another texture and a bit of salt to this perfect marriage of land and sea.

Now comes the 14-ounce, grilled, center-cut pork chop ($19). Easily three inches thick and grilled to a moist, it’s a succulent, savory piece of the “other white meat” etched with grill marks and topped with a honey dijon. The skill it takes to keep a thick piece of meat moist and lined with that sweet-tart nuisance mustard atop the cooked-to-perfection loin from a smoky grill is Augello’s art. This simple cut of meat with a simple preparation delivers amazing flavor and is a commentary on the elegance of simplicity. The chef allows the food to be the focus.

Gelato, sorbet and granite ($3/scoop), all house-made, are part of the sublime experience you can expect. I went for the mocha toffee, and it was rich and creamy with a nice balance of coffee and chocolate.

The wine list is, again, simple. And there’s a fair assortment of microbrews, imported and domestic beers ($3.50-$4.50). The restaurant has a small by-the-glass wine offering, but it’s in keeping with the simple approach Augello takes. I went with the Running with Scissors Cabernet Sauvignon from the Central Coast ($7). The wine is a deep garnet in color with a nose of anise and currant, full-bodied with medium tannins, a black cherry and currant flavor and a smooth long finish.

In cooking, simplicity is just about elements treated with the utmost care and the least amount of grandiose concoction. It’s about letting the food speak for itself and it takes a masterful hand to create simplicity. At The Gas Lamp, you’ll find a master in residence.

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