Gusto is a new pizzeria and pasta specialist in Seaside on the Monterey Peninsula. The owner is Denis Boaro, who is also co-owner of Basil in Carmel.
We checked it out for lunch two weeks ago. In addition to what's shown on the online menu, Gusto also offers a couple daily sandwich specials at lunch time.
The first thing you see when entering the restaurant is the wood-fired oven. It burns oak and olive logs and averages 750 degrees.
The complimentary bread basket featured tender pane di campagne from Palermo Bakery and an airy house-baked focaccia. Garlicky Gusto pesto, an umami-laden blend of olives, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, herbs and EVOO was utterly addictive. Our server readily refilled our bread.
Crispy calamari appetizer, $10, served in a paper cone stayed warmer that way but had too much moisture condensing below. It could have been drained of more oil to be less greasy. Big caper berries were intermingled with the mix of tentacles and tiny rings. The warm puttanesca sauce was too mild-mannered to represent the ladies of the night and needed more punch. Not a fan of this browner, crunchier style, we did not finish this dish.
Roasted red and yellow beet salad was awash in very fresh baby spinach and young lettuces glazed with a delectable honey mustard vinaigrette. Unfortunately, the cherry tomatoes were still hard and devoid of flavor at this time of year. Sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and a spoonful of gorgonzola dolcelatte, this was a winner and a good deal at $8.
I'd requested our pizza diavola, $13, scorched. It was indeed that but on an ecru base and overbaked rather than just hitting the highlights. This did make the pie extra crispy and now I know for future orders that the crust here will be crisp enough without the extra firing.
Our server brought a shaker of red chile flakes and offered freshly grated parmesan cheese that she is sprinkling on here. I did not use the extra chiles, the Calabrese salame was plenty spicy enough. A very tasty pie with carmelized onions, roasted peppers, oregano, San Marzano tomatoes, and mozzarella. The quality of the ingredients shines through clearly in the flavor.
The crust was pulled very thin and puffs up around the rim. As you can see, decent spotting on the pizza upskirt. Chewy and crisp, with well-developed yeastiness, this is a crust that you'll want to finish. I do wish the pizza had a splash of olive oil and skimmed some off the top of the Gusto pesto to add on my own.
Gusto uses San Marzano DOP tomatoes and organic flour imported from Piemonte for the true Italian taste. Reading the website before our visit gave me the impression that Gusto was striving for authenticity, and now having eaten there, I can say that it delivers on that promise.
While we did not order any salumi this time, I did stop to admire the red handcrank meat slicer. The owner noticed and said this was his Ferrari of the kitchen. At the time, Gusto was expecting its retail license any day so that it could start selling case goods to go, e.g., salumi, fresh diStefano burrata.
Gusto has a full bar. And one advantage of eating in an Italian restaurant is that espresso cups that are easier for seniors to handle can be requested to serve hot tea.
We were too full to order dessert, and in fact took a few slices of our pizza home with us. But I had noticed tiramisu served in attractive cocktail glasses at other tables. I asked if they might have some packed in to-go cups and yes, they do in the freezer. The take-out version is nearly 12 ounces by volume, much larger than the in-house serving size and priced at $7. We enjoyed it at home after dinner. While I would have liked more espresso bite, this was a nice version made with real mascarpone cheese.
With an Arnold Palmer and a pot of hot tea (organic Numi green), our tab before tip was $48 for the three of us. We were happy with the food, service and value.
Gusto - Handcrafted Pasta and Pizza
1901 Fremont Blvd
Seaside, CA 93955