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Dec 5, 2007 06:48 AM

Gran Gusto, Cambridge: the best Neapolitan pizza in Metro Boston

After a number of favorable reviews here and elsewhere, I finally had the opportunity to visit Gran Gusto in Cambridge.

The starters and pasta were very good, some of the better Campanian food I've had around town. And their rather sizable, mostly Italian wine list was surprisingly serious, featuring a number of Brunellos, Barolos, and the like in the $100 range, as well as plenty of value-oriented offerings well under $50.

But the pizza! Ohhhhhhhh, the pizza...

Whenever I try a new pizza place, I like to give a nod to the scientific method and order the same thing: a plain pizza margherita. Gran Gusto's was absolutely superb:

Sauce: bright and fresh, applied lightly and evenly.

Cheese: real buffalo mozzarella, again applied lightly, keeping a good balance.

But best of all, the crust: without a doubt the most wonderful crust I've encountered in the city. Astonishingly light and airy, clearly cooked in a blazing hot oven to build a thin, crisp exterior around the moist inside.

Finished with a nice amount of fresh basil, this pie was the real deal. At $12, not exactly a steal, but considering the quality of the ingredients, certainly not highway robbery either.

I've had some reasonable takes on Neapolitan-style pizzas around town. Antico Forno's is decent. Amelia's is Jekyll and Hyde, but fairly Jekyll on a good day. But nothing else I've tried in town can touch Gran Gusto. It has instantly become my go-to place in Boston for Neapolitan pizza.

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  1. So I guess you liked it then :).

    1. How does it compare to Regina's? If it's even close, I'm there, and soon!

      10 Replies
      1. re: hiddenboston

        Two very different things.

        I love Pizzeria Regina; it's certainly one of my favorite American-style pizzas in town. Good blend of cheese, great sauce, and a bready, chewy crust. Their pizza margherita is good, but it isn't Neapolitan; it's an American pizza crust with margherita toppings.

        Gran Gusto's pizza is much more Italian in style. This hinges on two things: a much, much lighter crust, and fresh, simple ingredients. I've seldom met a pizza I didn't like, but personally, I'd take a great Neapolitan pizza over an American one 4 times out of 5.

        1. re: finlero

          Yeah, it's true about Regina's having a bit more of an East coast American crust than a traditional crust. I guess I was thinking more in terms of, which place would you rather go to for a margherita pizza, but I wasn't very clear about that (par for the course on my part!). Gran Custo is close to where I live, so I'll have to get there soon, perhaps to grab a pizza to go.

          You might like the pizza at the Pasta Market Cafe in Malden, as it is a true Neapolitan pizza with a light crust, fresh basil, sauce, and sliced mozzarella on top, slightly burned on the bottom, and about as simple a pizza as you'll find. I loved it when I tried it a few weeks ago.

          1. re: hiddenboston

            Except that Gran Gusto is an actual wood-fired oven (a pretty small one), while Pasta Market is gas -- the gas oven its hard to get over 600F, wood can do over 800F easily. Finlero -- do you have any idea how long the bake was on the pizza? I have eaten at Gran Gusto twice, but didn't see any of the pizzas go by and we were wanting a lighter meal of main courses. Their wine list is great and its a great addition to the neighborhood. I was hoping for a few more secondi options and some small plates to go with the wine offerings, but they seem to be changing their menu fairly regularly. They also seem to be very accommodating to requests.

            1. re: itaunas

              No idea about specifics on the bake, but from the taste, I'm guessing it's short and extremely hot. The staff is nothing if not gregarious; I'm sure they'd be glad to tell you.

              As far as the margherita at GG vs Regina, personally it's no contest, definitely GG. But again, I love Regina for its more American-style pies.

              1. re: finlero

                Wow, high praise indeed. And wood-fired ovens are a relative rarity in the Boston area (much more common in NYC). I'm liking the sounds of this more and more...

                1. re: finlero

                  I think Antonio would have let us bake our own pies if we had more time. :-) They had a smaller fire going at the time, but depending on the thermal mass of the oven, it still would have been quite hot. I had planned to go back again to specifically try the pies and drink wine, but your review makes kick myself that I didn't already order one and probably won't be able to go by there for a few weeks.

                  1. re: itaunas

                    Oh man, it's all built up now! Still, definitely looking forward to hearing what you think.

            2. re: finlero

              I have not tried Gran Gusto and I'm not trying to start an argument here, but I thought it should be pointed out that perhaps the more fair comparison would be between the GG margherita (which the OP says is in the Neapolitan style) and the Regina Neapolitan pizza, which is not the same as the Regina Margherita pizza. The former has a thinner crust, much less cheese, and is much more (dare I say it) authentically Neapolitan than their Margherita, which kind of makes sense!!

              1. re: bella_sarda

                Interesting, I didn't realize Regina had these two different options. Do they appear to use a different dough for the Neapolitan? Or do they just roll their standard dough more thinly?

                1. re: finlero

                  My best guess would be that they just roll it more thinly. But that is just a guess. Time to go and sample the pies side by side!!!

          2. Where is this magnificent pizza making machine?

            1 Reply
            1. re: yumyum

              90 Sherman St
              Cambridge, MA 02140
              (617) 441-0400

              Here's more reviews:

            2. I wonder how that $100 Barolo would stand up to that pizza? ;)

              1. You know you're not keeping up with your to-try list when you realize a new place (Gran Gusto) has opened in at the location of another place you'd been meaning to try (Tartufo's at the Brickyard) but never got around to before it closed. Maybe Tartufo's was doomed by its misbegotten apostrophe -- or maybe it was run by a Mr. Tartufo?

                5 Replies
                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  It's a pretty unfortunate spot for a restaurant, IMO. At least with Jose's (on the same street), the place is lit up enough so that you see it a few hundred feet beforehand. But the spot where Tartufo's used to be--and where Gran Gusto now resides--is nearly invisible, and is gone in a flash as you drive down the narrow Sherman Street, trying to avoid smashing into cars coming the other way.

                  1. re: hiddenboston

                    Agreed, it doesn't have location location location, which was a big part of Tartufo's downfall. I thought Tartufo's food was great, much better than Trattoria il Pulcinella nearby, for example, but no one was ever in there.

                    When I went, Gran Gusto wasn't packed, but there was a steady stream of patrons, even on an off, chilly night, giving me hope that it will stay around awhile.

                    And to MC Slim JB:

                    > You know you're not keeping up with your to-try list...

                    I think I speak for all of us in saying that if there's one thing we hate about you, it's how little experience you have with the Boston restaurant scene.

                    1. re: finlero

                      It is possible that I am somewhat limited by the places that are willing to accommodate my Jazzy Power Chair.

                      But it does seem like the pace of openings accelerated a bit this past year, or at least the ones I thought looked interesting enough to want to visit. In addition to a "hot list" of places I really want to try, I now maintain a "warm list" of places that I ought to try, but for some reason am not really excited about, and so know I'm not really likely to get to them soon unless forced to by a business obligation.

                      Example: Tavern on the Square. They're about to open a second location (old Rustic Kitchen, Porter Square), and I haven't eaten at the first one. And judging by the consistent reports of mediocrity here and elsewhere, I doubt I'm going to dine there before it closes and becomes something else. Likewise, I suspect it'll be a while before I dine at the Seaport Morton's on my own dime. Not fair, maybe, but I've got to do triage somewhere. I think it's a mistake to spend all your time trying new venues; there are too many pleasures in being a regular at a few favorites, too.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Agreed with YY. Tavern on the Square should go on the COLD list (both locations).

                        1. re: chilibaby

                          Seriously. Don't clutter your list.