OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — How much importance is there in a name? I’ve only ever heard the restaurant on Walker just north of 23rd called “Gusto,” but its full name, and the sign on the building, is Pizzeria Gusto, and that tells you one area of focus … though not the whole story.
It specializes in Neapolitan-style pizza—superfine flour and an extremely hot oven producing a soft, chewy crust with little bubbles of char on the puffy outer ring.
Gusto does it extremely well, from a faithful rendition of the classic Margherita the Queen to some sensational flavor combinations: roasted chicken with apples, lamb sausage with tzatziki and one with butternut squash and roasted peppers. Even its pepperoni, which was a later and somewhat begrudging addition, has a pop of sriracha honey and roasted garlic. If you love the Neapolitan style, this is your stop.
However, that’s not my very favorite variety of pizza, personally speaking, so despite its array of salads and small plates—as well as a truly impressive bar—I’ve only been a couple of times.
It turns out that I should have been making weekend plans all this time, because an outdoor brunch at Gusto is a genuine pleasure.
The rear patio is instantly welcoming, sun-dappled but amply shaded and open to the elements but feeling half a world removed from the ceaseless surge of 23rd less than half a block away. Wood and stone, light bulbs strung overhead, climbing plants and hanging pots of greenery and space left for trees—it’s so thoroughly atmospheric that it took me a moment to realize that the small bird chirping happily in the branches overhead was really there and not supplied by my imagination. If the weather’s at all cooperative, this should easily be your first option.
The choice of fare is a little harder for good reasons.
While the menu rotates with some regularity, you’ll find options both sweet (like a lemon ricotta cornmeal waffle) and savory (breakfast pizza, fried chicken and biscuits with sausage gravy). Because I tend to consider having the establishment’s name attached to a menu item an endorsement, or at least a hint, I chose the Gusto Benedict with smoked salmon. It’s also available with pork belly, fried chicken or roasted mushrooms, with the protein of choice stacked atop poached eggs on grilled focaccia, with hollandaise sauce and spinach layered in between.
The hollandaise’s flavor is subtler than I was expecting, but that’s praise; it can easily overwhelm other components if the chef makes it too tangy. And the focaccia rounds are just about the perfect texture, firm enough to support a bite but easily cut with a fork.
The dish might not be an original concept, but the execution was excellent, and with the accompanying crispy potatoes and assorted berries it was a perfect portion for breakfast. I can admit that even though the apple pie bread pudding the ladies at the next table had ordered smelled about as good as anything ever has.
Despite what the building sign says, I think I’m more likely now than ever to think of this restaurant as Gusto, and not because I’m a sucker for brevity. Hopefully it’ll serve as a reminder to myself that there’s much more here to savor than just pizza.
2415 N Walker Ave. — pizzeria-gusto.com
- Tuesday-Thursday: 11am-9pm
- Friday-Saturday: 11am-10pm
- Sunday: 11am-9pm
- Monday: Closed