Aromas of saffron rice, melting manchego cheese, and oxtail drift into the two-level dining area as chef Ricardo Cardona prepares Dominican fusion fare in the kitchen. Cardona helms six restaurants, including Hudson River Cafe, Sofrito, 809, Sazon, and Manolito's, and Mama Juana in New York and Florida, in addition to hosting Que Comemos Hoy, a cooking show for the Dominican Republic. His Nuevo Latin cooking style has drawn celebrities to his restaurants including Chief Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, the New York Yankees, and Oscar de la Renta. At Gabbana, Cardona develops his own interpretation of Dominican fare, crafting dishes such as the calamari with creole tomato sauce and lemon garlic aioli, or the Chilean sea bass with a papaya ginger glaze, and noting that "anybody can cook rice and beans—what I try to do is I try to invent something that's never been done before."
In the dining room, metallic pendant lamps cast a warm glow over
hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, and a wooden stair case leading up to the second-floor dining area, where leather booths sit under timber ceilings. Stationed behind the smooth stone counter top of the fully stocked bar, which houses an extensive selection of rums and wines from Latin America and Spain, bartenders mix craft cocktails while DJs spin tunes to match the satisfied samba of chomping teeth.