Being gluten-free doesn’t have to mean sacrificing fine dining at new Hell’s Kitchen restaurant Senza Gluten by Jemiko. High-quality Italian dishes — including formerly forbidden breads and pastas — are all on the menu.
Offering decadent lasagnas and ravioli alongside specialties like Cauliflower Parmigiana, Senza Gluten by Jemiko operates a 100 percent gluten-free kitchen where the staff is expertly trained to prepare celiac-friendly food, and prides itself on creating gluten-free versions of carb-heavy favorites that aren’t usually available to celiac diners.
West Siders are thrilled to see an entirely gluten-free restaurant move into the area, with many saying it will be their new go-to for a stress free dining experience. “I work in the area and am gluten-free,” said Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS staff member Susan Slotoroff. “I can’t wait to have a new option in the neighborhood.”
The new 10th Avenue eatery is the work of Chef Jemiko L Solo, a seasoned hospitality veteran who could not have predicted as a teenager in Tbilisi, Georgia that a gig peeling potatoes in one of the country’s luxury resort kitchens would lead to an innovative career in gluten-free fine dining.
In fact, Chef Jemiko hadn’t planned for a culinary career at all, he told W42ST — as a child he was pursuing a career as an actor when he received news that would change his life. His father — a professional chef — had died. “It was very hard for me to cope with this news, but as time passed I realized I had to step up and look after my mother and myself,” Jemiko said.
His mother took a job at the prestigious Metechi Palace Hotel in Georgia, and Jemiko soon followed. “The hotel was the best thing to happen to me,” said Jemiko, “because I got so much experience — the hotel had chefs from all over the world, and they were amazing. I used to carry a personalized handwritten recipe book in my uniform pocket where I would collect each detail, recipe, and technique I saw around the kitchen performed by chefs and cooks. I remember the margins of the notebooks were always filled with my notes of new ideas, techniques, and sometimes even self-critiques. ” He worked his way up from vegetable peeler, even earning the title “Employee of the Month” while in his teens. During eight years in the kitchen at the Metechi, Chef Jemiko tried his hand at every station except one — baking.
When it came to pastries, Chef Jemiko drew inspiration from his mother. “My mother baked the most delicious sweets and baked goods in the world,” he said. “Everyone would want to come over to try them, and she was kind enough to distribute everything she would make to everyone she had around every day,” he added. “Watching and tasting so many delicious sweets on a daily basis consciously, and probably unconsciously, prompted me to continue my career in pastry and baking, and in 2002, I moved to the United States and joined The Art Institute of NYC to pursue my career.”
After completing culinary school and years of freelancing at restaurants citywide, Chef Jemiko was having dinner with friends when he was struck with inspiration. “I have many gluten-free friends,” Chef Jemiko told W42ST. “It was hard to find a restaurant that was fully equipped for such allergies and my friends would always be scared to dine out. I promised them that I would open a 100 percent gluten-free restaurant.”
Not only did Chef Jemiko decide to open a gluten-free restaurant, he decided to scale the proverbial gluten-free mountain: Italian cuisine. He got to work experimenting with limited ingredient options to perfect gluten-full favorites like brioche and Tiramisu. “In the beginning, it was really challenging,” he admitted. “But I love a challenge!”
After opening the first location on Sullivan Street in 2014 and a nearby bakery in 2018, it became clear that Chef Jemiko had tapped into a very real need for many New Yorkers. He frequently sources customer requests as inspiration for new specials or his next menu item, adding that the sometimes challenging process of recreating gluten-full classics is worth it. “I have many friends and now many guests who feel safe dining at my place,” said Chef Jemiko, who looks forward to seeing “the smiles on their faces eating a Tiramisu for the first time in 15 years.”
The chef, after leaving his original location in 2022, renamed his business as Senza Gluten by Jemiko and kept the bakery on Sullivan Street. He then set his sights on expanding his gluten-free empire to Hell’s Kitchen for the next phase. “I have a friend who lives in the area, and I really love the neighborhood,” said Chef Jemiko, “and we were getting a lot of requests to open in Midtown. I wanted something a little quieter, and one day we were driving around looking at spaces and saw this one — it was perfect!” The space was previously occupied by Le Privé, which was shuttered by the city during an ongoing court case with owner Sanjay Laforest.
The news spread, and by the time Chef Jemiko and his team had to collect community signatures for their liquor license application, they already had a line of admirers. “The neighbors already treated us like family,” he said, adding that they were overwhelmed by the community support. It’s all a part of his ethos to treat every customer and staff member like family, he added. “It’s a family business — my daughter, my wife, my family are all working here, and my staff are also my family.”
And as he readies Senza Gluten by Jemiko for its first summer season in Hell’s Kitchen, the chef is reminded of one family member in particular — his late father. “As a chef, he was rarely home, but he always found the time to cook me something every night — and he would tell me all about each ingredient and where it came from,” he said. “At the time, I didn’t think anything of it,” he added, looking around at the restaurant’s garden. “But when I’m here, I realize that’s what I’m doing now.”
Senza Gluten by Jemiko is located at 626 10th Avenue (between W44/45th Street) and is open every day but Tuesday 5pm to 11pm.