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Questions about Highland Kitchen & Gran Gusto

I'll be taking a friend out for a casual birthday dinner and he's narrowed it down to these two. We haven't been to either yet. If it's Gran Gusto, I plan to finally try their pizza, but I don't see any desserts on their menu. Do they have any? If so, what do you recommend? Also, I was thinking of the eggplant parmigiana as an appetizer. Has anyone had this?

At Highland Kitchen, has anyone had the mac & cheese? Is it soupy or more the baked, crusty kind? Would a double order be about the right size for an entree? Again, didn't see any dessert or cocktail menus. Do they have them? Any recs?

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  1. The one thing I know for sure is that Highland Kitchen has cocktails, and damn good ones too. I've had a few and they've all been well crafted, especially their None but the Brave, made with dark rum, cognac and allspice dram.

    I'm pretty sure they have desserts at both, but I'm not 100% sure--haven't had any.

    1. We order the mac & cheese for our toddler on every visit to Highland Kitchen. It's definitely of the baked, creamy variety, neither crusty nor soupy, and is perfect for her. Not sure I'd order it as an entree, even a double, but that's just me.

      BK

      1. note that highland kitchen is more likely to be loud and crowded, gran gusto quiet and sedate. i really like the pizza at gran gusto, but our last dinner there was a real dud, so i'd go with highland kitchen, myself.

        1. Gran Gusto definitely has desserts, which tend to be pretty authentically Italian, which is to say quite good, but understated and not overly sweet. They make a great chocolate almond cake (not iced, more of a coffee cake kind of thing), as well as an excellent tiramisu. Never had a bad dessert here, but know it's more about doing the basics well, as opposed to blazing a trail.

          The eggplant parm is, again, a real Neapolitan take on the dish. Very good, particularly because their red sauce is one of my favorites in town, probably second only to Pomodoro. I'm not a huge eggplant parm fan, but I like GG's about as well as any I've had.

          The two restaurants are really strikingly different. I think Highland Kitchen feels more classically celebratory for a birthday. Very good cocktails, terrific jukebox, and a generally young and hip clientele. While we Americans have brought Italian food into our country and made it our own, Gran Gusto strikes me as more of an ethnic restaurant, much in the same category in my head as Baraka Cafe and Floating Rock.

          1. Gran Gusto is not sedate, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. The decor is very colorful, the staff is very friendly--ok, one of the waiters very spontaneously kissed me as I left once, but I do speak Italian--and the noise level is just high enough but not too high. They make a big fuss for birthdays, you might call ahead so that they can prepare something. The cuisine is very authentic, nicely presented. Some very good wines (Dolcetto, Barbera) reasonably priced. My favorite appetizer is the beef carpaccio with artichokes; the pasta dishes are very good, the pizzas are very simple, very light--I would certainly go there for a birthday celebration.