Italian done right in CambridgeSeptember 23, 2009
I recently completed a course on the History of the North End in Boston, and with it came me eating at a variety of different eateries there. While the quality was pretty hit or miss, the high prices were pretty much the same all across the board. One day as a treat, we had a guest speaker named Stefano Selimbeni, an Italian born journalist covering the news in America for an Italian news station. Everyone in the class had one thing in mind for the native Italian, and that was “Where is your favorite place to eat in the North End.” Stefano kept dodging the question until he said something along the lines of “I won’t say which places to go or not to go in the North End, but the best Italian food I’ve had was at Gran Gusto in Cambridge.” My interest peaked, I set out for a meal as soon as I could, and was not let down.
The friendly and knowledgeable staff helped us decide by offering up some awesome sounding specials. We started with some Italian cheese on a bed of spinach, and then hit the main courses with much fervor. The Pappardella In Polpa D’Astice (homemade pasta with lobster in a fra diavolo sauce) was pretty much one of the best things ever. The lobster meat was very fine, but also very flavorful and added a great texture to the dish. The Risotto Nettuno, their seafood risotto was creamy and rich, with calamari, shrimp, and scallops finely mixed into the rice. The item that won the table over though, was the Lasagnetta Di Melenzane. The al dente lasagna noodles were baked to a nice crispiness that complemented the eggplant, mozzarella, and tomato and basil sauce. The dish had a comforting creaminess that isn’t often found in a baked pasta dish, but it was there and the flavors were just spot on. Also be aware that they have gluten free pastas for anyone you know who has an allergy. The desserts were no laughing matter, but seeing as they change almost daily, I’ll just say go and give them a shot on your own and take my word for it.
The thing about Gran Gusto that makes them stand out is their attention to the details. Every dish was presented in an elegant but homey way that just begged you to eat it. The location, while a bit odd as it is in a mall of sorts, was great. Their outdoor patio dining during the warmer days was a great option, but the inside is decorated pretty rustically as well. While it wasn’t the North End, the food was some of the best compared to the dozens of restaurants I’ve had there, the prices were a lot less than most of the places in the North End.
90 Sherman St
Cambridge, MA 02140