As you know, I’m back from a much too long hiatus from the foodie blog world. I recently had the pleasure of eating at Uptown OKC’s newest restaurant, Pizzeria Gusto. I moved to Mesta Park in May of this year and part of the reason I moved to this part of the city is the exciting potential this area holds. When I tell people that aren’t familiar with Oklahoma City’s revitalization that I live close to 23rd Street, they cringe. Those of us that live here know otherwise. Uptown OKC is RAPIDLY changing and Pizzeria Gusto is one of our first examples of this progress.
When I first heard that Pizzeria Gusto was coming to Uptown, I was less than pleased. Oklahoma City actually has a great deal of really great pizza restaurants…Empire Slice House, The Wedge, Hideaway, Pizza 23, etc….So I was really hoping we would get some cuisine variety up the road. My friends quickly shut my concerns down by letting me know the same folks behind Big Truck Tacos, Mutts, and Back Door BBQ, all some of my favorite eateries in OKC, were behind Pizzeria Gusto. So, I patiently (not so patiently) awaited the arrival of our new restaurant. By patiently, I mean driving by to see the construction progress almost daily and obsessively checking their Facebook for updates. The thing about Pizzeria Gusto is that it offers a different kind of dining experience than the rest of Oklahoma City’s pizza restaurants and I knew the moment I walked in.
I went to Pizzeria Gusto on a Friday night just a couple weeks after they opened. I was pleasantly surprised to walk into a vibrant restaurant with modern, yet also classic decor. We had to wait just a bit, so we took a seat at the bar because DRINKZ. I was pretty much blown away by their cocktail and beer menu. I happen to be a huge fan of the fancy cocktail. The more ingredients in a cocktail that are unknown to me, the better. I started the night off with “The Lovers of Pompeii,” which was a cocktail made with Galliano. Galliano is a sweet herbal liqueur and the bartender was super excited to use it. He said it is always a delight to make a drink with the Galliano as it is such a fun and diverse liquor. This drink was also made with Amaro Nonino, which is another Italian herbal liqueur. This drink was totally on the fruity side, but was very interesting and yummy, as I had never tried either Gilliano or Amaro Nonino. I was very impressed by Pizzeria Gusto’s authenticity in liquors. Every one of the drinks had an Italian liquor that I had never tried. In addition to the awesome cocktails, their beer selection was AWESOME. I will tell you…I immediately harshly judge a bar or restaurant if their beer selection is sub-par. Pizzeria Gusto did no disappoint by offering quite a few craft brews and very few “common” beers. I was super happy to NOT see a Bud Light or Miller on the menu. In this day and age of awesome beer, there is just absolutely no excuse for folks to drink that watered-down nonsense.
Obviously, I didn’t come to Pizzeria Gusto to just get drinks, so then comes the food. Something that I believe makes Pizzeria Gusto unique in the OKC pizza market is that it isn’t just a pizza restaurant. Their small plates, which include Italian classics such as meatballs, bruschetta, fried calamari, and arancini are just the perfect plate to start out your meal. We chose to try the calamari and arancini this time around. The calamari was just outstanding and served with this great tomato dipping sauce. The arancini was also great. For those that don’t know, arancini is fried risotto balls with cheese (carbs on carbs on carbs). It was served with an awesome marinara sauce. I have high marinara standards. I make my own marinara sauce and just love Italian food. If a restaurant fails on the marinara front, they fail in my heart. Pizzeria Gusto did the opposite. Their marinara was the perfect combination of tartness from the tomatoes and sweet and savory from the spices.
NOW FOR THE MAIN EVENT
We came to Pizzeria Gusto to eat pizza obviously. Pizzeria Gusto is unique in that they offer Neapolitan-style pizza. I’m a huge fan of this cooking style because it is just so simple and accentuates the flavors of tomato, herbs, and cheese, which are three things I just absolutely love. I could have just stuck to a simple Margherita pizza, which is a true Neopolitan-style pizza staple but, my table chose to try out the Chicken pizza and Meatball pizza. The chicken pizza was topped with goat cheese and arugula, so how could you go wrong? I believe the true star was the meatball pizza. I’m a big fan of all things meat, so I have always had a soft spot in my heart for a meatball pizza. Pizzeria Gusto’s was outstanding. What makes their meatball pizza great is that it wasn’t complicated. It was pizza with meatballs with a few peppers added in to the mix. If you ask any Italian what Americans do wrong with pizza is that we complicate it and don’t use pure ingredients. That’s what Pizzeria Gusto does best. Their oven-fired pizza has the perfect equation of fresh ingredients, char from the hot, Italian-style pizza oven, and enough TLC to show they really care about providing an authentic, delicious meal for those that come through their doors.
The take-away from Pizzeria Gusto is that the atmosphere is that of a bigger city…something you would see in a New York City or Washington, D.C. I had just come from a vacation in New York City just a few days before I went to Pizzeria Gusto and I felt like I was eating in a small restaurant in the Lower East Side. You aren’t going to get some revolutionary, out-of-the-box pizza experience like you would at some pizza restaurants in town, but you will get an authentic, thoughtful meal that will absolutely satisfy. Pizzeria Gusto is absolutely great for date night or a night with family or friends.
This restaurant experience gives me hope for my dear city, which is so rapidly changing. I cannot wait to see what other food adventures we will get to experience in the near future.