Gig Harbor’s Gertie and the Giant Octopus

Chef Robert Mario, owner of Gertie and the Giant Octopus

It’s no surprise that a Gig Harbor restaurant called Gertie and the Giant Octopus would have octopus on the menu.

The restaurant’s most popular dish has been the octopus a la plancha, and there are other dishes that feature the tentacled namesake of the restaurant.

“We sell octopus more than anything else in the building,” said chef and owner Robert Mario DeLaura. “I didn’t realize people would gravitate toward (it) as much as they have.”

Gertie and the Giant Octopus opened in March, and the Gig Harbor community has embraced it. The restaurant is next to the Galaxy Theater in the Uptown shopping complex. DeLaura mans the kitchen with his right-hand man, Tyler Tedder.

The restaurant’s name is steeped in Gig Harbor and Northwest history. It takes its name from both the Galloping Gertie bridge and the Giant Pacific Octopus said to live in the bridge’s wreckage deep in the Puget Sound.

There’s a bit of DeLaura’s history up on the wall — a photo of him and his mother from when he was a culinary student in Michigan.

DeLaura has spent 30 years in the restaurant business, starting as a dishwasher. He was working as a consultant when he happened upon the spot in Gig Harbor.

The mission of Gertie and the Giant Octopus is simple: dishes done right, with a laid-back bistro and wine-bar vibe. The menu changes weekly, with popular dishes staying put. The menu is relatively short, always offering a selection of small plates, pastas, entrees, and crispy salads.

“You just let the ingredients be themselves,” DeLaura said. “It’s the people that bring (the restaurant) to life.”

For lighter fare, there’s an apple salad. Peppery arugula is served with sweet and tart green and red apples. Manchego cheese gives a savory, salty edge, and dates add a sweet balance. It also has Marcona almonds for some crunch.

The star main course is the octopus a la plancha. Spanish octopus is boiled in salty water and grilled and dusted with pimenton. It’s served with fried potatoes and onions. Traditionally octopus a la plancha is served with boiled potatoes, but DeLaura fried them for a more home-style feel.

DeLaura also cooks up a pollo al burro, which is chicken breast roasted in and served with a brown butter sauce. It’s covered in a frisee salad. The chicken is smooth and buttery and is one of DeLaura’s favorite dishes.

“The brown butter sauce gives it a little more richness,” he said.

The vibe of the restaurant is like having a dinner party every night — good food, good conversation, and good wine.

Being next to a movie theater has its perks for the business. People often stop in for a glass of wine before a show, or enjoy dinner after.

“Just enjoy yourself, come and relax,” he said.

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is a staff writer at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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