Sherman Street in Cambridge seems a rather unlikely spot for a restaurant, as it cuts mainly through a residential part of North Cambridge and West Cambridge, with a little bit of office space mixed in. But two restaurants actually call Sherman Street their home; Jose's, which is a popular Mexican dining spot near the railroad tracks and Rindge Avenue, and Gran Gusto, a wonderful Italian restaurant (and the focus of this review) that is located in an easy-to-miss office building just south of Jose's, near Walden Street.
Even though Gran Gusto is located in an office building, the atmosphere is surprisingly romantic, with a sprawling mural on one wall almost giving the place the feel of an Italian villa. Outdoor seating in available in warmer weather, though eating inside may be preferable because of the sometimes-heavy traffic on Sherman Street. The inside dining area has more space than you might think, with two separate rooms each being able to seat a number of diners.
While Gran Gusto is technically an Italian restaurant, many folks come here for their fresh, wholesome Italian-style pizza, which happens to be cooked in a wood-fired oven that was brought over from Naples. The crispy thin-crust pizza has just enough charring on the bottom to make most pizza lovers happy, while the slightly chunky sauce has an irresistible spiciness to it, and the thin slices of buffalo mozzarella is delicious but used sparingly enough to allow the flavor of the sauce to really stand out. Two of the pizzas offered include a margherita pizza that has just enough basil to give it a buttery sweetness to it, and a quattro stagioni pizza that has a delicious mix of ham, mushrooms, artichokes, and olives.
For those who would rather have an Italian entree, many of the items listed on the menu are also cooked in the wood-fired oven. Entrees include (depending on the season) risotto nettuno (an amazing dish with all kinds of delicious seafood mixed in), tagliatelle alla bolognese (decent pasta and an excellent bolognese sauce with crumbly beef in a delicious red sauce) as well as gnocchi with sauce and cheese, homemade pappardella with mushrooms and sausage, pan-roasted halibut, braised lamb shank, and veal scallopine. Several appetizers are also offered (including wild boar sausage with cannellini beans), and salads are fresh and perhaps just big enough for two people (though probably best to order individually). Desserts are also offered, including a very filling napoleon and a downright sinful tiramisu.
Gran Gusto seems to be a favorite among the "foodie" crowd in Boston, but ask most people if they have ever heard of the place and you will probably get a "no." If you like restaurants that feel like truly undiscovered spots (and you love traditional Neapolitan pizza), do yourself a favor and get over to Gran Gusto to see what all the fuss is about.
Copyright © 2008-2016, Boston's Hidden Restaurants (www.hiddenboston.com).