The Dish: Homemade Gnocchi at Mulberry Social

Photographer: Michael C. Upton

Mulberry Social, the newest restaurant with the most buzz in Lancaster, quietly opened in August and has been busy polishing its menu. You won’t see advertising for the restaurant at the corner of Mulberry and James Streets. The website is bare-bones, offering only an address, phone number, reservation service and some basic info. This is exactly co-owner Chef Carl Vitale’s plan.

“I wanted to get through an entire menu, make sure the kitchen is up and running smoothly, before spreading the word about Mulberry Social,” says Vitale, who attracts a popular following as the chef of Gibraltar (due to open in its new location in December).

We are sitting at a high-top in the refurbished bar area—a mix between a ’50s cocktail bar and a modern, metropolitan after-work hang. It’s hours before opening on a Friday night and I have Vitale and the first item from Mulberry Social’s new fall menu all to myself.

“This dish is our homemade gnocchi with duck confit, roasted butternut squash, shaved Mulberry-Social-Sign-inset-1115Brussels sprout leaves and it is topped off with some crispy duck skin. And it rests in a duck jus,” explains Vitale. “We put lots of effort into our gnocchi; it’s something I’ve become known for.”

The effort is truly worth the result. The gnocchi’s creamy texture shines as the heart of the dish. Upon reading the description I would have thought the duck was the centerpiece, but the gnocchi is the star. It is full of flavor without being overly rich. I’ve known Vitale for several years and he’s been perfecting his gnocchi recipe for decades.

Chef Vitale starts to excuse himself and head back to work when a member of his kitchen comes up with a metal mixing bowl of what looks like herbed panko. The aroma is amazing. I have to ask what it is, and learn that it’s a combination of lemon zest, horseradish, salt, pepper and fresh herbs, which will crust a new short rib entrée. He instructs the cook to head back into the kitchen and toast the concoction a little bit longer.

“It’s the small details that make the difference, which take the food from good to great,” says Vitale, who breaks into a smile. I think he knows I’ve always loved his food and he’s just managed to further impress me.

Back to the dish – the Brussels sprouts are cooked only slightly, leaving them a crisp and pungent contrast to the gnocchi. They are essential; what they add both visually and in texture is equally matched in their flavor and how they complement and contrast other elements of the dish. The entire dish is a perfectly precise blending of flavors. I can’t wait to discover what else will be on Vitale’s fall menu at Mulberry Social.


300 W. James St., Lancaster



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Michael C. Upton works as a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure covering subjects ranging from funk punk to fine wine. He graduated with a B.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Maine at Farmington and is actively published by trade journals, specialized websites, and regional and national magazines. Upton lives in Southeastern Pennsylvania—in the heart of Amish Country—with his wife and two youngest children.

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