Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Gusto Italian Grill Food Review

Craft Your Own Pasta with Beef Meatballs

There's no shortage of build-your-own, fast casual restaurants in and around the nation's capital; but one of the most popular cuisines (Italian) has long been missing from the mix... until last year. That's when Joshua Grim opened two locations of Gusto Italian Grill, one in downtown Silver Spring and the other at the corner of Elm Street & Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda. I finally made it in to the latter, and came away well-fed and very impressed with the aesthetics and service.

The location is terrific, with a cozy front patio most restaurants would kill for. Inside is even nicer, a huge improvement over former tenants Kraze Burgers. My only complaint... the stools. The short ones are fine; but the taller ones lack any kind of footrest. That means dangling legs, and supreme discomfort. Luckily, there are plenty of other seating options; but it's so bad, I'd sooner stand than sit on one ever again. Stools notwithstanding, the rest of the space is a dream.

Beautiful chandeliers, gorgeous individual restrooms and loads of easily maneuverable space. A Freestyle Coca-Cola machine, great A/C and hip, soothing music (Arcade Fire, Passion Pit.) What more could you ask for? Customer service is stellar as well (warm welcome, friendly questions, multiple thank yous) and the prices are surprisingly low (at least for the Craft Your Own options.)

Said options include your choice of Greens, Pasta or a Wrap with four ingredients and a sauce or dressing for a mere $6.29. I opted for Pasta (Capellini over Penne) with Classic Tomato sauce and cucumbers, sweet & spicy peppers and tomato bruschetta. All toppings were super fresh (crispy cubes of cucumber, vibrant red peppers) and tasty. I also added Beef Meatballs (four total) for $2.99 more; but feel free to think outside the box with chicken, porchetta, salmon, steak or turkey meatballs. My meatballs appeared homemade and were loaded with natural flavor. Nice and soft too, a refreshing change from bread-laden, denser versions sold just about everywhere else (Noodles & Company, are you listening?) As for the sauce... Rich color, but a bit bland. Toss in a complimentary, tall cup of water, and I was able to have a nice, filling lunch for under 10 bucks. Evidently, miracles do happen.

Gusto sells flatbread pizzas too; but it's easy to miss, since they're only listed on a specials chalkboard to the side of the far more noticeable main menu (and website.) I guess that means I have to go back for a second visit. Poor me 😊. Click here for Gusto's full menu; and don't forget to save room for dessert (Gelato Pops!) To be continued...