>> Sunday, June 20, 2010
There was a time when Gran Gusto was one of those off-the-beaten-path hidden gems tucked away in a residential neighborhood in North Cambridge. We discovered this authentic Neapolitan restaurant back in 2008 when it had only been open for about nine months. It became our go-to place on a Friday night. We loved how it had ample parking, incredibly delicious food, and no wait on a Friday night!
Of course, two years later, the secret is now out. You can't necessarily show up on a Friday night during peak time and expect just to get seated. The restaurant's pizza alone has been written up in Serious Eats and named "Best New Pizza" by StuffBoston. Area magazines have written great reviews as well.
It had been awhile since our last visit. When I realized my last review was about two years old and had no pictures (!), I decided it was time for an updated post on one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Cambridge.
Sorrentina – Smoked mozzarella, tomato, eggplant, basil $15
Gran Gusto is known for its pizza, which is very classic Neapolitan. I ordered the Sorrentina pizza because the waiter said it was his favorite (although he did recommend trying the Margherita if it was my first time. I've had the Margherita, so I opted to try his favorite one instead. The crust was super thin and nicely charred, with decent leopard spotting. I loved the toppings on this pizza. The mozarella and the grilled eggplant added a nice smoky balance to brighter flavors from the cherry tomatoes and the basil. Better yet, the portion size is generous (you get a whole personal pizza for $15). I only ate half, which means I had enough leftovers for at least another meal.
Sformatino – Cauliflower flan, taleggio sauce, black truffle $11
We have always loved their sformatinos, a baked flan covered with a rich, black truffle sauce. In the past, they used to make a spinach version (which we loved), but I almost want to say that I like the cauliflower one even more. It's no secret that the combination of cauliflower and truffle oil is already heavenly, so it's no surprise that when you make it into a custard-y flan that the final product is . . . .wow.
Here's a second look. Soooo good.
Gran Gusto imports about 80% of its ingredients from Italy, including olive oil, flour, bufalo mozarella, and specialty cheese, such as the straciatalli. This particular cheese, described as "the inside of burrata," is rich, creamy, and great with the proscuitto. Bryan liked this dish more than I did. I agree that the straciatalli had a beautifully rich and strong cheese flavor. However, I just could not eat too much of it because it was too rich and heavy for me. I tend to like lighter cheeses whereas Bryan likes the stronger cheeses, so that may explain our different reactions to this cheese.
Squid Ink Pasta with cherry tomatoes with 1/2 lobster
Again, this dish was beautifully executed. The fresh pasta had a great al dente texture, and the light tomato sauce was great. The 1/2 lobster was quite messy to eat (seemingly almost inappropriate in such a nice restaurant), but Bryan soldiered on, eventually resorting to eating with his hands, which he hates. Nevertheless, he still thought it was worth it because the dish was really good.
I thought this North End establishment's ricotta pie was my favorite in Boston, but now I'm reconsidering. I absolutely loved the ricotta pie at Gran Gusto. I'm not sure if it's as authentic. It's much more eggy, creamy, and less sweet than the ones I've had in the North End, which are sweeter and have a more natural ricotta cheese texture. I mean, both are still good, just in different ways.
Oh, and the espressos (which are from Italy) are excellent as well.
Gran Gusto is still one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Cambridge. Although it's located in an office complex of sorts, once you enter the restaurant, you can almost imagine that you are enjoying a nice meal somewhere in Naples. The ambiance is warm and inviting, the Italian waiters are great, and the food is excellent. As an added bonus, they have an outdoor seating area which is open during the summer.
This place is off the beaten path. It's not really near a subway stop (maybe Alewife or Porter would be the closest), but there is a free parking lot (after 6pm) right across the street from the entrance.
90 Sherman St
Cambridge, MA 02140