Calling all Italian food addicts…
Gustoso, the new Italian landmark in the prime Qurum area, has the perfect dose of Italian flavours to satiate every pasta lovers palate
The multi-hued food path, on Qurum’s laidback street facing the Funzone, has a little Italian jewel, which has been aptly named Gustoso, or tasty, as Rossella and Luca Maccario, the owners, point out. ‘Tasty’ is a metaphor that transcends the walls of the kitchen to create a homey feel that is reminiscent of popular pasta bars in Italian food courts.
Adorned in simple motifs, with bright white and red colours dominating the décor within, the restaurant, which opened doors in December last year, has made warmth and camaraderie its signature style. This is perfectly complemented with fresh pastas and authentic Italian flavours, leaving no room for customisation or fusion stories to dilute the ‘authentic’ mantra.
What caught our attention, as we made our way along the vibrant food alley, was the quiet style and approach adopted by the eatery. No loud décor elements or colour splashes to take away the focus from food or undermine a food lover’s need to indulge in authentic flavours without falling for the lure of decor. But there are little creative elements that are sure to make the diner smile with admiration. Like the upturned colanders that act as lampshades on the ceiling; the picture frames of pastas that tell you, in no uncertain terms, that you are, indeed, in for some Italian love of the food kind; the white board listing the day’s specials and the open heart-shape that is formed with the last two letters of Gustoso…
It was early evening as we settled for our long Italian feast, with Rossella treating us to an endless array of dishes with ‘authentic Italian’ labelled on them. She tells us that it was her and Luca’s overriding desire to start an Italian food station in a Middle Eastern nation that saw them making home in Muscat, miles away from their hometown. Interestingly, the duo have no restaurant experience, with Luca relying on his military expertise and Rossella on her fashion career, to work their way to make Gustoso a success story. Although it is a little too early in the day to chart their growth, the restaurant has, apparently, found a food connect with foodies that have honed their palates on authentic Italian fare.
At Gustoso, the stress is eternally on authentic. Whether it is the flour for fresh pastas, the herbs or the sauces, the crisp and compact, no-fuss menu, has been crafted with condiments and ingredients sourced from home; Rossella even grows the sage and basil in her home garden here. Fresh pasta is prepared by the experienced Italian chefs that man the kitchen. Plans are on to initiate sale of fresh pasta on order from September this year.
Executive chef Eris Di Sannio and Sous chef Lorenzo Favero have several food tricks up their sleeves and we got to enjoy a few of them. The most interesting was the presentation of freshly made pasta, with prawns, grated cheese and zucchini bites cooked in a creamy sauce. The dish, named ‘Casarecce zucchine e gamberetti’, comes to the table ‘in crosta di pane’, meaning covered in homemade bread. The pan is sealed in the bread dough before putting it in the oven, creating a succulent pasta dish with all the flavours preserved.
Our Italian fiesta did begin with a series of starters: We tucked into the ‘Bruschette al Pomodoro’ (toasted bread topped with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and basil) with a dash of creamy ‘Tasto’ balsamic vinegar, another Italian product.
The ‘Suppli’ (fried rice balls stuffed with mozzarella and ragu sauce), which came next, was a novelty to our taste buds with the sauce creating the perfect confluence of rice and cheese. ‘Parmigiana’, a dish of grilled aubergine slices, tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan cheese and basil, is a delight for any eggplant lover.
The mains included, besides the seafood pasta, ‘Frittino Con Tonno Fresco’ (mix of fresh tuna (scottata or seared) with deep fried potatoes and peppers and rocket salad); ‘Risotto alla crema di funghi porcini’ (a large dish filled with scrumptious risotto and porcini mushrooms, which come straight from Italy); and ‘Lasagna con ripieno di carne, besciamella e Pomodoro’ (rich ragu sauce layered between sheets of fresh lasagne, a creamy béchamel sauce and mozzarella). The best of all was the ‘Ravioli con ripieno di ricotta e spinaci alla crema di burro e salvia’, freshly made ravioli filled with spinach, butter and sage. Just divine!
We had ‘Frollini di mele’, a crispy dough pie with apples crammed in the centre; the blissful Tiramisu (classic Italian dessert made with coffee, cream and a light sponge cake); and the warm and succulent ‘Souffle al cioccolato’, a delicious molten chocolate centre and a light sponge exterior. We topped it all with ‘Crema di caffé or coffee cream.
One memorable tasty affair this…