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Amici! Great meal at Gran Gusto

A new year, a new restaurant -- it just feels right. My friend and I went to Gran Gusto for dinner last night and it was so comfortable, so warm, so friendly that it was perfect for a cold snowy night.

Shared the special arugula salad, tagliatelle with mushrooms and sausage, and the pizza margharita. Bottle of the house wine (not on the list, but the Barbera d"Alba they also serve by the glass) was perfect. Everything was simple and delicious, with my favorite being the pasta, split in the kitchen and served in the Italian style, with just enough sauce to coat the homemade pasta. That pizza really is super too. Ricotta pie to finish on a sweet note.

Service was polished -- our waiter and what seemed to be the manager or maitre d were both genuinely happy to see us happy. That always scores big points for me.

** Note, an Italian patron came in with a group of friends and his own black truffle and after conferencing with the chef, they enjoyed it shaved over pasta with butter. As so many have posted here it's not a great year for truffles (not a lot of aroma coming off the plates as one would normally expect) but I still wished I was invited to join them. I asked the manager if they have tartuffo specials often and he explained that the patron is his best friend and sometimes they get truffles but they are done for now. I'd like to become best friends with that guy.

I really enjoyed the meal, the ambiance, the company. It's a great little spot just slightly off the beaten path but well worth checking out.

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  1. Place link:

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    Gran Gusto
    90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

    1. I really like their house Barbera d'Alba; really juicy, nice with all the fresh flavors in the food. Did you happen to get the name? I've only had it by the glass, so I've never seen the label.

      19 Replies
      1. re: finlero

        I'm really bad at this ... can never remember the names of wines that I like, only those that I don't. He made a big deal of presenting it too ... sorry. What I did appreciate was that when we decided to get a bottle and I asked if there was a Bd'A on the list he apologized but said they could sell us a bottle of the by the glass wine. Reasonable too, at $35.

        And thanks to you for bringing this place to my attention. I think Sal Monella was the first one to mention it on this board but your pizza post convinced me to try it.

        1. re: yumyum

          Actually, I believe its first mention here (as "Grangusto") was by a hound named alanr way back in September:

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/444905

          Sal Monella put it back on my radar in November (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/460788 ), and then I went in early December and got all hysterical about the pizza (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/466604 ).

          One way or another, I'm really glad it's there.

          1. re: finlero

            Yes, it was your hysterical pizza post that made me take notice. I think you should get hysterical more often.

            1. re: finlero

              I think you're right finlero. I can't take credit for GG. But the fact that it's been such a hit makes me feel good.

          2. re: finlero

            My wife and I enjoy drinking a bottle of a Barbera d'Alba tonight. Was yours Quattro Fratelli, by any chance? 2005. The maitre'd recommended it when I looked a bit lost in the wine list. Mostly fruity, moderate tannins and acidity. Not especially complex, but definitely enjoyable, hit the spot, $33 by the bottle.

            My wife and I had the Caesar salad, salmon carpaccio special, special pasta of the day (fettucini with sea scallops, squid, plum tomatoes with, I believe, garlic, olive oil, butter), Margherita pizza, tiramisu, and ricotta pie. I think our favorite Caesar salad so far in Boston is the one at Giacomo's, but this was a reasonable version. The salmon carpaccio was quite tasty, served with red onions, arugula, and olive oil. The Margherita pizza was delectable--I love basil, so I wouldn't have minded a bit more, but the crust was perfectly crisp without being crunchy, wonderfully but not too buttery, perfectly minimal use of tomato sauce. The tiramisu had just the right amount of mascarpone cheese to balance the ladyfingers with espresso (most places put too much cheese, in my opinion). The ricotta pie was delectable.

            Young-Ho

            1. re: youngho

              We had a lovely dinner at Gran Gusto. We've been craving Margherita pizza and usually get our fix from Sagra (their Margherita DOC), but, alas, they've decided to stop serving pizza. After reading about Gran Gusto on Chowhound, we decided to give a try this evening. We started with the beef carpaccio with artichoke and lemon. Absolutely fresh--the beef melts in your mouth, the julienned artichoke is cool and tender, and the acidity of the lemon sauce is refreshing. Then we had the Margherita pizza--wonderful fresh bufala mozzarella, delicate tomato sauce (slightly sweet, just from the natural sweetness of the tomatoes). I think we still prefer Sagra's, but this is a good alternative. We had a delightful Sardinian Argiolas Perdera with the meal. We finished the meal with the riccotta tart, light and sweet, accompanied by a delicate moscato.

              1. re: penny

                Sad to hear that Sagra quit making pizza. It was one of the best items on the menu, particularly the one with their house-cured prosciutto. Any scoop on why?

                1. re: yumyum

                  Someone wrote in another board that they have a split kitchen and probably are trying to save some dough by getting rid of pizza. Get it?

                  Too bad. The one with the mortadella was awesome!

                  1. re: FrankFausto

                    I stopped by Sagra for a glass of wine the other night (and just to poke my nose around to see what was going on in there). Good number of people dining on a weekday night...and the pizza is back on the menu. Didn't try it, though.

                    1. re: digga

                      I had the pizza last night. Very good. The croquettes are still good too ... creamy lovely fried morsels. The Italian cheese and meat platter was just okay. The prosciutto was cut way too thick (gross! exclaimed my friend) but the mortadella was really good.

                      I was surprised it was as busy as it was on a cold Monday night.

              2. re: youngho

                we also went there this weekend and had a really nice meal. I started with a glass of what I think was the same Barbera. It was excellant, so excellant that my wife drank all of mine and I had to try another. We actually stayed away from the pizza since we had Cambridge 1 the day before. She got the seafood stew and I had the lasagna. My lasagna was teriffic. Not too saucey, great flavor, hearty portion. The seafood stew was also good but having had a similar dish at Hammersly's the weekend before it wasn't as great. We both had salad's to start with, I had the arugula and she had a special salad. For dessert we split the raspberry napoleon which was excellant. light and sweet, perfect after a huge meal. All in all a great meal for a reasonable price. Very nice workers and only a short drive from harvard square.

                1. re: youngho

                  I was back at Gran Gusto over the weekend as well (I feel like we hounds need some sort of secret sign to flash so we know who we are...). I checked, and it was indeed the Quattro Fratelli, a nicely drinkable young Barbera.

                  The pizza was great as always, and I very much enjoyed their grilled calamari appetizer, with a little lemon and a little char.

                  1. re: finlero

                    Wait! No one showed you the secret handshake yet? ;-)

                    Actually back in the day, there were chowhound pins that people would wear to events to identify themselves. Now we just identify fellow hounds by their eyes rolling back in their heads upon eating buffalo mozzarella.

                    1. re: yumyum

                      I got this comment on one of my Phoenix reviews from a reader who thinks Chowhounds have magical powers:

                      "It is very easy to spot the chowhound groups. They are the ones taking pictures of their food, and telling the owner/manager that they are from chowhound. Somehow, I don't know why, free food and wine magically appear on the table. Jeez, what a coincidence."

                      I responded: "The notion that Chowhounds are often given special treatment like food and drink comps at Boston restaurants is laughable. They're amateur posters, not professional critics. Nobody is 'from Chowhound'; anybody with Internet access can post opinions there. I'd wager that many Boston restaurateurs are barely aware it exists. Go ahead and try to pull that 'I'm a Chowhound' card in a local restaurant and see how many comps it gets you. It's like saying to a politician: 'I'm a registered voter: fear my power, and take care of this parking ticket for me!'"

                      That guy got mad and called me naive. Am I the only Chowhound who's not getting mad comps because I'm not flashing my "Chowhound credentials"?

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Man, you are so missing out! ;-) I went back and read that comment, sounds like the same poster who got upset here about a party at Grotto that turned out to be mistaken ID. I bet very few of us ever mention the board. I don't. The restaurants that I know are aware of it are grateful, but no special treatment. (We do need a secret signal.) To keep this Boston-centric, I'm glad Gran Gusto is doing well, I'm overdue for a return. But I'm sure Radcliffe and the wealthy neighborhood will have more to do with it than chowhound.

                        1. re: Aromatherapy

                          Our gang sign could be a shadow-puppet dog with the pinky/lower jaw moving up and down as if chewing.

                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                          Maybe i should try harder! Seriously though, if I ever mention a reference to the Chowhound Board I might sometimes get an interested reaction or even a brief discussion - but always the full check - no comps. That is fine with me.

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            I take pictures of food when I travel or see something beautifully plated. Food first, narration later. People who post are self-selected and diverse. IMHO it is all about the food, but thanks to all who post on this board. I rely on the kindness of strangers.

                        3. re: finlero

                          Thank you again Chowhound for revealing this cozy place! Went last night in the bitter cold and the welcome was warm and genuinely friendly while very professional. My dining companion and I were in grazing mode and we split:
                          --Grilled calamari/mushroom/lemon appetizer
                          --Pappardelle w/ house sausage and mushrooms
                          --Margherita pizza
                          --Strawberry cake with vanilla whipped cream and fresh strawberries

                          I was struck by how light and FRESH everything was, with the key tastes being the exact ingredients of the dishes. The calamari esp. was lightly charred to perfect, melt in mouth tenderness, and very prettily presented. The pizza was crisp and flavorful and I really tasted an extra fresh tang + creaminess from the imported bufula mozzarella. The owner was visting tables and he's especially proud of his brother sending him the bufula from Naples 2x per week.

                          Prices were very reasonable for the level of service and coziness. It felt a bit like being in Italy and we could linger as long as needed. (11pm close time is nice in this part of Cambridge, too.)
                          I'll be back!
                          --

                    2. Hey yumyum, glad to hear you really liked GG. I think those folks whom you cite are most likely my wife's boss and his wife. They basically live there, chat up the chef/owner and always get customized dinners.

                      1. We just had dinner at Gran Gusto on Saturday and the artichoke ravioli I had was fabulous. The pasta was soft and tender with a delicious artichoke filling. The sauce was sublime; buttery and luscious, with sage, a squeeze of lemon for balance and topped with crispy bacon. It was truly an excellent dish. DC had the rigatoni with sausage and porcini. He reported that his pasta was also excellent. He thought it was cooked perfectly with a nice blend of flavors.

                        Gltsoi.livejournal.com

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: gltsoi

                          I feel like I am always asking this question: can anyone describe the atmosphere of Gran Gusto? It sounds great and definitely my kind of place, but can I bring along a 15 month old toddler? Has anyone ever seen any other little ones here and/or highchairs? Or is it really more of a cozy, intimate spot?
                          Definitely looking forward to checking it out (with or without the little one..)

                          1. re: twentyoystahs

                            It's perfectly bambino-friendly; more often than not I see large (often Italian-speaking) families with small kids dining there. I don't specifically remember seeing high chairs, but I'm guessing they have one or two; probably best to call.

                            It's in an odd little office building on a residential street. Looks a lot nicer from inside, tile floors, rustic tan-colored walls, a mural left over from at least the Tartufo days. Not tiny, not enormous, I'm going to estimate 20ish tables in two rooms. You can get a pretty good feel of the interior from the website: www.grangustocambridge.com

                            1. re: finlero

                              Agree -- especially on the early side, GG would be a fine place for a toddler. I have seen a high chair out in the hall. Most of the staff is Italian so they are cuckoo for kidlingtons.

                              I must admit the kinda cheesy room (and the weird piped in music) is my least-favorite part of the GG experience, but I can put up with a lot for good food and wine.

                            2. re: twentyoystahs

                              No one will mind your baby, and will probably take him or her for a spin around the room. But the pace of service is leisurely. That was the issue with taking my bambino there--it just went on too long.

                          2. Two points.

                            1) This place is empty - literally empty at lunchtime. Go!

                            2) Now that I've had bufala mozzarella.... what do I call that crap I've been eating on pizza for the last 48 years?