Gabriel Aiello describes himself as a "one man band, " able to fill any role in his restaurant at the drop of a hat. He is quite proud, however, of the strong team that works alongside him. Nine of his employees have been at Gabriel's since day one - when they opened in 1992 - including the man who makes the pasta by hand, the butcher and a waiter. I would not be surprised if this long-standing synergy is the reason why the restaurant creates such a comfortable ambience. There are warm orange sconces illuminating a roomy dining area lined with modern art by Hector Leonardi, chosen by Gabriel's son, a graffiti artist. In the corner is a painting of a crumpled piece of paper composed by his wife. While Gabriel does not deem his restaurant a family business, he admits that each member has left his mark on the restaurant, including his other son, who works as a waiter in the restaurant while continuing his career as a writer. Gabriel considers the private room to be the jewel of his restaurant. Seating up to thirty-six people, Gabriel told us that the space has hosted "everything from my son's fifth birthday party to Oprah's Thanksgiving bash. " In the twenty-three years that they have been on 60th Street, Gabriel's has held over 5, 000 functions. "We really nail parties, " the proud owner exclaimed. After being part of the opening team for Arqua, on Church Street, in 1983, Gabriel wanted to start a restaurant that would serve "peasant-casual" Italian food with no frills, as opposed to the high-end, ornamental dishes concocted by many of the surrounding restaurants. He aimed for "elegant, efficient, and not too expensive. " A formula that seems to have worked, Gabriel went on to say that the space was chosen because the high, lofty ceilings set it apart from most others on the Upper West Side, making it feel more like a Tribeca piece of real estate rather than a neighbor to Central Park. As we headed downstairs on our tour, we learned that the whole building used to house Atlantic Records, and that Ray Charles recorded in what is now the second kitchen. Lined with rainbow trays of kale and eggplant tapenade, the kitchen was one of the most immaculate I have entered, while smelling like the house of the most skilled Italian grandmother. When I asked Gabriel if he still enjoys coming to work every day, he answered immediately, "Yes - the only thing that gets me down are the slow days. " The day we were visiting was clearly not one of them. In the middle of the week, during the lunchtime hours, we witnessed trays of tuna tartare being whisked by, wood grilled salmon over pureed cauliflower, and a bright pink risotto made with red beets. Gabriel spent a great deal of time speaking about the mix of clientele that he attracts - from tourists to locals, to those who work nearby at the Time Warner building. One patron, in particular, that Gabriel mentioned was Michael Bloomberg. Apparently, the former mayor declared this is his "favorite eatery in the city. " Gabriel told us that Bloomberg ate here every Thursday while in office and would consistently bring an illustrious panel of people to dine with him. It is no wonder. With the simple, Italian fare and comforting atmosphere, Gabriel's offers a cool oasis in the middle of the hot rush of Manhattan.