Summing up Gale’s Restaurant in Pasadena is easy: it is all about fine dining and fun. But most of all, Gale’s is about family.

The bustling bistro features the most comprehensive selection of Northern Italian cuisine this side of Tuscany. But to owner Gale Kohl, her namesake restaurant also represents a higher calling. It is a tribute, a memorial and a reason to celebrate life each and every day.

“I have an older brother Ira who passed away,” says Gale, “and he always was and always will be an inspiration to me. I just loved him so much, and he loved good food and a good time. I like to think that if I can make my customers enjoy dining out as much as Ira used to, I will have done a pretty good job.”

A 20-year veteran of the industry, Gale previously ran the food service accounts for a host of entertainment giants that included Walt Disney Imagineering, ABC and CBS television, and the Gene Autry Museum. She also worked in Business and Industry Accounts for Marriott hotels.

“I did it all,” says Gale, “from running restaurants and commissaries to catering, but my dream was always to open my own restaurant.”

She had plenty of supporters of that dream. Gale’s Restaurant truly is a family affair, and has been from the very beginning.

“My husband and partner in life, Rene Chila, is part of the moving force of the restaurant. He helps out when we are greeting and welcoming our customers in the evening, not to mention everything he does with service, ” says Gale.

Terri Kohl, Gale’s sister-in-law, also contributes to the restaurant on a daily basis. “She has always been the person in our family who follows through and makes sure that things are ‘taken care of,’” Gale says.

Gale’s niece Karyn has worked as a hostess and her nephew Matt designed much of the restaurant’s web site.

Gale’s brother, Jerry, has helped with everything from creating the visuals of the restaurant to developing the menu. “He pushed me to strive for the very best and beyond,” she says.

Jerry, who owns Leegin Creative Leather and Brighton Accessories, is a well-known stickler for details, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the interior design of Gale’s. The decor is a striking combination of modern elegance and Old World charm, and has a number of special “Brighton” touches.

The walls are brocaded with genuine artwork stretching from the floor to the ceiling. Everything from the marble tabletops to the crystal chandeliers to the dominating bust of Michelangelo’s David standing sentry over the open kitchen inspires visions of authentic Italy, and the resulting ambiance is truly special.

Gale’s is all about great food, and what sends the eclectic collection of northern Italian offerings sailing into the culinary stratosphere actually seems simple to the owner.

“The one area where we are totally committed and where we never compromise is using really great ingredients that are as fresh as possible,” says Gale. “We buy some of our produce from the farmers’ market and try to pick up organic produce whenever it’s appropriate. We also are always looking for purveyors that carry great quality and unusual product.”

The inspiration for many of Gale’s house specialties comes from produce that is in-season, and only the freshest products are used in the preparation of meat and seafood dishes as well. Some of Gale’s specials include lamb chops from New Zealand – made unique because they are fresh, not frozen - monk fish with saffron mussel risotto, - and a wide variety of salmon prepared in different and delicious ways. All are guaranteed to please even the most sophisticated palate.

But Gale’s doesn’t disappoint when it comes to down-home Italian American favorites, either. Choose from lasagna or spaghetti with meatballs, and of course, made-to-order pizzas. The best one-word review for Gale’s pizza is that it is “awesome.”

Finally – and fortunately -- at Gale’s, it isn’t over until it’s over, and that means sampling several of Gale’s pastry creations for dessert. Though divinely inspired, they are sinfully sumptuous, and you may have a harder time choosing than you did selecting your entree an hour earlier.

Come visit Gale’s. It is the realization of a dream. It is a tribute to families, past and present. It is a joyous celebration of fine food and good times. And it is fun!

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