One Day in Cambridge, I ate here…
Gran Gusto: Homemade Italian Food in a Charming Cambridge Location
“I’ve never seen it this busy,” Coley whispered to me.
“Maybe everyone is filling up on carbs before the big snowstorm,” I whispered back.
We surveyed the sweet, unpretentious main dining room of Gran Gusto, an Italian Trattoria located in Cambridge and I hoped we didn’t have to wait. I’d just arrived in Boston from San Diego to visit Coley (my sister) and I was starving. Plus, I wanted to get back to Coley’s apartment in case the huge blizzard the weather people were predicting for the next day came early.
A smiling young man with dark hair appeared before us. “No worries,” he said in a soothing Italian accent. “We will open the private room for you.”
Sure enough, a couple minutes later, we were being led into the equally charming back room, which can be rented out for parties and private dinners. We had our seat and the maitre d’ walked by.
“Did you two rent the private room?” he asked in a jovial manner.
Coley and I giggled as is hard not to do in the presence of Italian charm while he swiftly presented us with homemade bread.
Coley brought me to Gran Gusto for three reasons. 1. I love Italian food, 2. I especially love Italian food actually made by Italians, and 3. She loves Italian food – and Gran Gusto.
“This place is a local secret,” Coley told me as we opened our menus. “My friend whose from Italy brought me here and assured me it’s the best Italian food in Boston. It’s awesome. Everything is so good.”
The menu consisted of an array of traditional and contemporary Italian dishes put together by the head chef, an Italian from Naples who had worked in several prominent restaurants in Italy before making his way to America. Many of the entrees mixed staples such as gnocchi or spaghetti with fresh, local ingredients. There was also a section of the menu just devoted to pizza. I was quite torn between the unique sounding entrees and the allure of Italian-style pizzas.
“Their specials are amazing,” Coley also assured me. “I hope they have the buffalo mozzarella appetizer special again.”
Sure enough, they did. It came with shredded buffalo mozzarella mixed with arugula and surrounded by proscuitto. Mixing the three ingredients together provided a sweet and salty taste and Coley and I were using the bread to wipe up the remaining mozzarella remnants off the plate. It was too good to let any go to waste.
For entrees, Coley got the special: a fresh, healthy-tasting – yet superbly delicious – pasta dish with asparagus, shrimp, and tomatoes tossed in a white wine sauce.
I decided to forego the pizza and got the spinach gnocchi, which came tossed with scallops, mushrooms, and tomatoes. It was a combination I never would have put together on my own, yet it was divine. Each ingredient complemented the others ideally for some savory wonder.
They also had a great wine selection of Italian wines and our server was able to recite them off the top of his head with a recommendation of what I should get. Coley opted for water. I told her she was crazy to bypass Italian wine.
While eating, we gained company in the back room as a family of Italians came in. There were eight or nine of them consisting of three different generations and they began talking animatedly back and forth with the staff in Italian.
Oh, yes, that’s another thing about Gran Gusto. It was full of Italians eating there – always a good sign for an Italian restaurant located in America.
After we’d eaten as much as we could and our stomachs were bulging around our jeans (ok, that may have just been me. My skinny sister doesn’t have that problem) we headed out to wait for the taxi that had been so kindly called for us by the maitre d’.
I stopped to take a few pictures of the main dining room and our server appeared by me. “Pictures?” he said with a smile.
I shrugged with a smile. “I like to remember where I eat.”
“You should get a picture of the fire,” he insisted.
I looked around, not having remembered seeing a fire anywhere. “What fire?” I asked.
He immediately called out something in Italian to the maitre d’ and gestured to me.
The maitre d’ looked at me and my camera and his eyes lit up. “Yes, yes, the fire,” he said, excitedly gesturing me to follow him. I went into the part of the kitchen area that extended out into the dining room and sure enough, yes, there was a fire. A fire for cooking.
“Ah, I wish there was a pizza in there for your picture,” he said a bit tragically.
“Oh, no worries!” I said brightly. Gran Gusto is such an accommodating place I was worried they’d stick a pizza in there just for me to take a picture of. “Besides, there is something in there.”
“Ah, yes. Pork!” He said with a smile and vigorous nod of his head.
I grinned back and thanked him for letting me take a picture. I went back to the entry way, where Coley was watching all amused.
“Isn’t he great?” she said.
I agreed that he and all of Gran Gusto was very, very, very great. And – judging from the packed atmosphere the night I ate there, this local secret isn’t going to be a secret too much longer, so get there soon.