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Gran Gusto - underwhelmed & sad

jdubboston May 2, 2009 06:51 AM

OK, hoping that it was an off day or I did something wrong, because I have been SO excited to try GG's pizza after all the raves here and elsewhere. Maybe I'd built it up too much, but it definitely disappointed. First off, I am a pizza-lover, make it often at home & search out places with good *hot* coal or wood fired ovens. It has to have that slightly charred, thin crust. Not a fan of bready at all.

Anyway, finally got myself into Cambridge yesterday with a friend for lunch and ordered the Ortolana - and this is probably where we went wrong, as it has multiple vegetables on it... Maybe too many toppings for the oven? Anyway, it came out looking wonderful, but pulling out slices, the pizza didn't seem done - it was pretty oily, quite wet and floppy. Biting into it, the centers were still kind of doughy and there wasn't that nice charred flavor that deepens the crust taste for me.

Had I been alone, I would have sent it back & asked for it to be re-fired, but my DC isn't a fan of making a fuss, so I didn't.

Thoughts from you all? Is this a place, like Santarpios or others where I need to ask for it to be 'well-done'?

  1. TomH May 28, 2009 10:21 AM

    Had a great meal at GG two weeks ago. My wife and I took my parents for their anniversary. Some of the highlights were a special appetizer with fresh imported stracciatella cheese from Italy served with speck, the rigatoni with sausage and mushroom, the butternut squash risotto and a perfectly cooked margherita pizza. Our server was friendly, fast and all apologies because we had to wait just a few minutes even though we had a reservation.

    Overall a great meal and we will definitely be back just for a couple of those pizzas!

    1 Reply
    1. re: TomH
      yumyum May 28, 2009 11:03 AM

      We had the rigatoni with sausage and mushrooms too. Delicious.

      My wine was $10/glass -- for the level of Barbera they serve, I don't find it overpriced.

    2. f
      fishmanator May 28, 2009 09:29 AM

      My friend and I ate there and were both incredibly let down. Poor crust, bad cheese and flavorless sauce. Not to mention very expensive wine and rude service.

      1. Bob Dobalina May 8, 2009 06:16 AM

        We dined at GG last night - everything was yummy - had fresh stracciatella over arugula, really great, but a lot saltier than I thought it would be -had been thinking it would be a lot like buffalo. Had a special entree of fresh-made fettuccine with a sauteed soft-shell crab - no breading on the sucker, there it was in its crabby glory on the plate. I was a little wigged out, having never had a "naked" soft shell crab before. It was all crabby goodness.

        We also got a margherita pizza to split - it was not oily or wet. But the crust was "floppy" in the sense that the middle was soft, not firm. The underside showed some blackening char, but it could have been considered by some to be underdone. This pizza was entirely consistent with the pizzas I have had there in the past, including ones that had more toppings. What am I saying then? I think it's the same pizza every time!

        6 Replies
        1. re: Bob Dobalina
          galleygirl May 8, 2009 06:31 AM

          Mmm, tell me more about this naked crab...Sauteed in EVOO? BUTTER? GARLIC?BROILED? GRILLED? It's how I prefer them, but I usually have to do it myself...

          1. re: galleygirl
            Bob Dobalina May 8, 2009 07:14 AM

            It was a 6-7 oz. blue crab (or looked like it) - seemed sauteed in evoo - maybe a brief braise? A little garlicky, but also some herbal components. Not broiled or grilled so far as I could tell.

          2. re: Bob Dobalina
            finlero May 8, 2009 07:43 AM

            Hey Bob, I hope you'll forgive the semi-personal intrusion, but curious to hear your parents' perspective on GG? (As I recall, your Italian mom said she'd disown you if you ever ate at the Olive Garden, y?)

            1. re: finlero
              Bob Dobalina May 8, 2009 08:52 AM

              NP, finlero. Thanks for asking!
              Mom's funny that way - hates Olive Garden but is also very picky as to what she considers appetizing. So she had the bolognese at GG and liked it but ordering bolognese is sort of always by default and I would say she enjoyed the chow better at Vinny's at Night by judging her reaction - so her barometer is attuned to a particular frequency. She loved the pizza at GG, but she was far more jazzed when I took them to Santarpio's.
              Dad is game for anything - could tell he really liked everything at GG (also got the softshell crab).
              Welcome to the family!

            2. re: Bob Dobalina
              n
              newhound May 9, 2009 06:32 AM

              "But the crust was "floppy" in the sense that the middle was soft, not firm"

              We've enjoyed Gran Gusto, but they serve their pizzas on conventional plates and so the middle sits over a trapped pocket of hot, moist air. Certain death for that middle that Bob Dobalina notes. I can't understand why they don't serve the pies on something flat.

              1. re: Bob Dobalina
                yumyum May 28, 2009 08:55 AM

                Went last night and neglected to order the marg pizza well-done. It came out a little floppy and soft. Still delicious but next time, I'm back to asking for a char.

                I love and appreciate that they will split shared orders (salads, pastas) in the kitchen. As always, good value for money.

              2. jdubboston May 3, 2009 05:45 AM

                Thanks all, for the comments & suggestions. I will most certainly give them another try and be sure to ask for the 'za well-done...

                A bit of a rant: will have to say I find it a little frustrating to go a restaurant known for their 'wonderful' pizzas & wood-fired oven and STILL have to temper what I order and additionally have to make a special request for the cooking style. Shouldn't they want to turn out the same kind of crust - particularly the char & the nice 'taste of wood fire' - with EVERY item, regardless of topping? Why not adjust cooking times accordingly?

                8 Replies
                1. re: jdubboston
                  Karl S May 3, 2009 09:22 AM

                  It's not just a matter of cooking times. In a given oven, by the time the center of the pie is done under too many wet ingredients, the outer ring is overcooked (not merely charred).

                  What restaurants should do is either cook wet ingredients beforehand or recommend that you get no more than one wet ingredient, but Americans never want to believe that less is more - for most, more is not enough.

                  The one place I've been satisfied with multiple vegetable pizza has been Angela's Coal-Fired Pizza in Saugus.

                  1. re: jdubboston
                    Bob Dobalina May 4, 2009 05:43 AM

                    Has there been a difference between lunch and dinner service at GG? Maybe that's where the discrepancy lies.

                    1. re: Bob Dobalina
                      galangatron May 4, 2009 06:38 AM

                      i have been to gran gusto for both lunch and dinner and didn't notice any difference in the quality of the service or the pizza

                      1. re: galangatron
                        Bob Dobalina May 4, 2009 06:39 AM

                        Thanks, G. Going Thursday with the parents so will report back.

                    2. re: jdubboston
                      k
                      kewpie May 5, 2009 11:00 AM

                      finally! a rant that should apply to all places of business! why should the consumer have to 'adjust' anything when this is what they are known for,i.e.woodfires pizza with a char?..we have gone twice and thought"whats the big deal,its not even that good" and we asked for it with char on our second visit too!. thank you jdubboston

                      1. re: kewpie
                        9
                        9lives May 5, 2009 01:44 PM

                        I don't see what the big issue is. Some people like a charred pizza, some don't. If you want it charred, just ask them. They can't read your mind.

                        If I'm running a restaurant, or any other business, I'd cook the food the way the majority of people like it. You order a steak of hamburger, you specify your preferred degree of doneness. Order Chinese, Indian or Thai, specify the heat level.

                        If the "consumer" has a preference for how little or well his food is done, he should politely state that (and expect it).

                        A "charred, well done pizza" that I would be happy with could be considered overdone or burnt by someone else.

                        1. re: 9lives
                          ScubaSteve May 5, 2009 05:22 PM

                          hear here!!!

                          1. re: 9lives
                            jdubboston May 8, 2009 01:41 PM

                            Gotcha - and definitely understand that when I have a *preference* I need to ask for it (like 'dressing on the side' as one obvious example). I have no problem with it, and understand that as someone who understands food, cooks a lot and is particular as a general rule, I do have different tastes than the 'majority of people.'

                            My issue is more that if a place is KNOWN for an item or a cooking style in particular, it shouldn't matter what different toppings or fillings I order. If it's on the menu, it should be consistent. Say, a chocolate croissant and a ham & cheese cheese croissant should both have the same crumb, right?

                            Just to keep this on-topic and Boston-based, rest assured I will return to Gran Gusto and I will order a simpler pie and I will ask for it 'well-done'!

                      2. a
                        autopi May 2, 2009 07:43 PM

                        's funny, because that's the exact opposite of our experience--very good thin crust pizza, nice char, and so on and so forth, but somewhat underwhelming everything else--pasta, risotto, and something else i can't remember. and a particularly uninspired bread basket, as i recall. nothing terrible, just not that great. we'll go again for the pizza for sure, but probably skip the rest.

                        1. w
                          winedude May 2, 2009 02:27 PM

                          I have to say, GG has been one of my few Chowhound disappointments. I went with high expectations, ordered the Margherita, and thought it was particualarly underwhelming. I didn't find it particularly authentic (having had many pizzas in Italy), nor did I find it anywhere near as yummy as Regina's or Pepe's (I know that neither are true Margherita, but I'm comparing it to a regualar cheese or a "Mooz". Perhaps I was expecting too much, but there was no char, no taste of wood fire, and the mozzarella didn't seem all that special. It's so far out of the way for me, I'm not sure I'll bother trying it again.

                          1. t
                            treb May 2, 2009 10:47 AM

                            Too many wet watery toppings, stick with the basic's like one topping of meat.

                            1. 9
                              9lives May 2, 2009 08:01 AM

                              I asked for mine "well done" and I really enjoyed it. I realize that many people would call this too well done, but I was by myself and perfect for me.

                              Like MC said, too many toppings, especially vegetables with a high water content will hurt the crispness on a thin pizza.

                              I hope you give them another shot.

                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/61246842...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: 9lives
                                t
                                teezeetoo May 2, 2009 08:06 AM

                                i think their margharita pizza is great but my husband won't ever order a pizza with topping so we only get the margherita (he'll make an exception for Pepi's white clam pizza in new haven but mostly he believes only in "tomato pie".)

                              2. ScubaSteve May 2, 2009 08:00 AM

                                one topping, or no more than two as long as they are low moisture and Always asked for it Well Done.

                                1. MC Slim JB May 2, 2009 07:51 AM

                                  I always limit toppings on thin crust pizzas. I'm a big fan of GG's pizza, but I prefer the classic margherita there, and stick to a one-topping limit at Santarpio's, the original Regina's, Mangia Pizza, etc.

                                  Vegetables are especially problematic: if they're the sort that express any water in a hot oven, they doom a thin-crust pizza.

                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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