60 Greenwich Avenue, New York, NY 10011-8307
What I ate:
Appetizer – Grilled octopus carpaccio
Main dish – Sotto Bosco wild mushroom & blueberry risotto
Dessert – Trio of sorbet
It’s winter restaurant week in NYC, which means time for me and my dwindling bank account to take advantage of the reduced-price lunch and dinners offered at some of the city’s best restaurants. This year restaurant week is extended for 3 weeks (and some restaurants may even extend it longer), so I have plenty of time to visit a few of the restaurants on my list of places to try.
I was especially happy when my friend scored a reservation at Gusto Ristorante for eight of us girls on a Friday night. I’ve been meaning to try Gusto every since I watched a profile and read a few reviews about the restaurant and its famous fried artichoke appetizer, which looked delicious. The restaurant is located in the West Village and serves rustic Italian food. They support local and family farms, and most of their pastas are made fresh in house. From the outside, the restaurant looks like any other neighborhood Italian spot, but once inside the décor is sleek and sexy with beautiful chandeliers and dark wood paneling. Since we were a fairly large group, we were seated at a round table in a back room away from the noisier bar area.
After deciding on a few bottles of wine for the table, we checked out the prix-fix menu. Sadly the artichoke appetizer wasn’t included in the restaurant week menu, so for my first course I choose a grilled Portuguese octopus carpaccio. Thin slices of octopus were topped with a mound of arugula and avocado slices. The octopus was charred slightly at the ends and had a nice hint of spicy flavoring that was unexpected but delicious. The peppery arugula added a little kick as well. The texture of the octopus was just perfect, not too chewy and perfectly sliced. I loved that the dish was light but full of bold flavors, so it was satisfying without leaving me over full.
When it came time to choose a second course, our waiter broke the bad news that they were out of the pasta dish that was offered for restaurant week, so instead we could choose any pasta from their main menu. The bad news actually wasn’t so bad since the restaurant is known for their great pastas, so I ordered the risotto with wild mushrooms and blueberries mainly because I was intrigued by the flavor combinations. It was amazing. The creamy risotto was cooked perfectly with delicious flavors of mushrooms, truffle oil and parmesan, but the best part was the unexpected pop of sweetness from of the blueberries. Surprisingly the fruit and mushroom combination worked well with the creamy pasta. And again the portion size was perfect – not too small but just enough to leave you satisfied. I cleaned my plate.
For dessert, we again were told the “bad” news that the restaurant was out of one of the two desserts offered on the prix-fix menu. However this time I was a little disappointed because I was really looking forward to trying the mascarpone mousse with pomegranate granita and pine nuts that was no longer available. But again we were allowed to order any dessert from the main menu instead, so I decided on a trio of sorbet that included basil, lychee and blood orange sorbet. The first bite I immediately tasted a burst of sweet basil that was so refreshing and tasty. The blood orange sorbet was a little too sweet and reminded me of an orange sherbet popsicle, but the lychee had a nice subtle flavor that went well with the bold sweet basil. It was a great ending to an already delicious meal.
Overall our first winter restaurant week experience of the year was a hit. Every plate I tasted was superb. Portions were just right, and the quality of fresh ingredients shone through with each dish. I’ll definitely be back to Gusto, especially for their famous fried artichokes and that mascarpone dessert. Great food with good friends, plenty of wine and half price! Not a bad way to start the year.