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Dining with Great Gusto

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In Italian, Gusto means taste.  In English, gusto is defined as hearty enjoyment.  The two Definitions came together last night at LA's Third Street gem of a restaurant, Gusto.  A genteel quality generated simple elegance and warmth. The tastes at Dinner were fresh and Delectable exceeding my already high expectations.  Gusto is talented chef Vic Casanova's baby. Previously, Vic had launched Culina at the Four Seasons Hotel on Doheny in 2011.  Having Dined at Culina and Gusto, I tried to piece together what may have happened that led Casanova away from hotel-big to sidewalk-small. I imagined this Bronx-born schooled and gifted Italian-American chef, cooking in New York, moving around culinary circles, and then being given the opportunity to open a lavish ambitious showpiece at one of LA's most Deluxe Destinations. I couldn't help but feel last night that he must have been conflicted at Culina, at once high from a status standpoint and low from not having full control over its running.

I was there during Culina's first month ooh-ing and aah-ing over a food-centric hotel restaurant situated in my neighborhood. An exciting extensive menu had wowed and I vowed to master it. Italian crudo, pizzas and a Diverse array of antipasti, primi and secondi, reasonably priced, seemed like it would Define a new kind of Dining at the Four Seasons.  Months passed and I noticed a change - not in preparation particularly - but in the quality of ingredients.  I still have flashbacks to being served a much too fishy Branzino in late 2012.  The food changed - and I never bothered to inquire about the chef, who had apparently left.  Duh! (When will I learn that is the all-important question?!)

At Gusto, I had my aha experience.  The menu at Gusto is limited and extremely thoughtful.  It felt as if the chef had culled from his experience the best of the best, and regained control over his ingredients and their sources. With the help of our wonderful server memorably named Jazz, we shared four items. First was the Big Eye Tuna Tartare, Puttanesca style, an evening special that was constructed with capers, black olives, tomato, hot chilies and basil. The sashimi lovers' "bigeye" worked ideally as did the herb and spice. We asked Jazz for more information on the basil; she brought us a leaf of the Genovese basil.  It was sharper than most basil and like the chili pepper added fitting contrast.  

 

The on-the-menu scrumptious Ravioli with Butternut Squash was another update on a Dish that's become ubiquitous. Its black creamy trumpet mushrooms and the perfected truffle burro fuso (i.e. melted butter - ooh, aah) combined to have us finish the Dish in under 3 minutes.  




The Cernia dish, pink grouper over broccoli di ciccio, was another standout to savor. The surprise elements were the salsify and the baby tasty tangerines.  




Jazz urged Dessert and that was the ultimate surprise of the night.  Chef Vic is the Dessert chef as well (huh? yes!) and the Coconut gelato pie is magnifico, out of not-just-this world!  The swirl of chocolate could have been more plentiful for my taste, but that's the spoiled little girl talking.  



Sommelier Daniel Deny, who joined me, appreciated the all-Italian wine list.  His Selvapiana Chianti Ruffina and my Rosati were light and just-right accompaniments that complemented the whole meal.



On Saturday night, I didn't get a chance to speak with Chef Vic Casanova and hope to on a quieter night.  I'd love to pick his brain about his future plans.  Gusto is a lovely little Diamond and if small and unpretentious, fresh and modern are his only goals, he has made it.  Selfishly, I'd love to see him widen his net. He's too good.  Oh and by the way, so is the lovely server Jazz, who enhanced the evening.

Gusto
8432 West 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048

(323) 782-1778