Dish Breakdown: How Gabbiano’s Makes Its Popular Fried Mozzarella

“It’s a monster, labor-wise, but it has made us who we are, It’s one of those things that’s never going to go away.”

It started with a haircut.

Gabbiano’s chef Daniel Rehbein was still working on the Concordia restaurant’s menu when his barber, Jax of Jax Garage, mentioned seeing fried mozzarella “shot glasses” on Instagram. Rehbein decided to play with the idea at a pre-opening dinner, and now almost every cook at Gabbiano’s spends at least part of their shift packing shredded mozzarella into silicone molds, part of a nearly 24-hour process.

On Gabbiano’s menu, the dish seems innocent enough: “Fried mozzarella, panko, Parmesan, marinara, parsley.” But what gets sent out to the table is refined, deconstructed—or is that reconstructed?—and whimsical, even if you can’t actually do a “shot” of marinara. This is not the stuff of chain restaurants or sports bars, but a high-quality—and, dare we say, fork-and-knife-required—riff on an Italian American classic. Nearly every table gets at least one order until the kitchen runs out, which can happen as early as 7 pm (it makes around two dozen plates a night).

“It’s a monster, labor-wise, but it has made us who we are,” Rehbein says. “It’s one of those things that’s never going to go away.”

Here’s how the molten cheesy magic happens.

The Mozzarella

Five-pound blocks of full-fat, low-moisture mozzarella—including what it uses for chicken Parm, Gabbiano’s goes through 80 pounds a week—is shredded in a Robot Coupe processor, painstakingly stuffed into one of 14 eight-slot molds, and then baked for 10 minutes and cooled overnight. One order (three glasses) uses one-third of a pound of cheese.

The Bread and Dredge

It’s the standard breading procedure times two: The unmolded mozz gets dredged in seasoned flour, egg and panko—the bread crumbs are also first blitzed in the food processor for a finer texture—followed by another round of egg and panko. Then they’re popped into the freezer to harden.

The Finished Product

The fried cheese is filled with a classic marinara: Alta Cucina canned tomatoes, bay leaves, garlic, butter and onions, with the onions left whole and removed at the end.

“It is as true to the ingredients as possible,” says Rehbein. “We really wanted to let that marinara sauce shine, and let the cheese shine, and kind of take you back to a new version of that memory that everyone has of a mozzarella stick.”