In Italian, “gusto” can mean either flavor or enjoyment, and English speakers use it as a synonym for enthusiasm. That means that Pizzeria Gusto has an excellent name, because the restaurant at 2415 N Walker does quite well at providing or prompting all three.
And not just in terms of pizza – although it specializes in Neapolitan-style pies, the bar deserves a fair bit of visitors’ attention, as well. I can’t tell you everything that’s on the cocktail list because it updates and rotates so frequently, but I can tell you that you should get to Gusto quickly, before the Blueberry Negroni disappears.
It’s a slight variation on the classic cocktail, perfected by Gusto’s Schuyler Crabtree. The Beefeater gin that powers the drink is infused with blueberries in house, then mixed with sweet vermouth, Hayman’s sloe gin and Campari – although a smaller proportion of the latter than the usual recipe, to lessen the bitterness and let the fruit move forward. The result is a nicely complex flavor, with a hint of sweetness, but only on the forefront of the taste; the lingering presence has more of a floral signature. It’s an impressive concoction.
It’s also elevated by its presentation, served in an Old Fashioned glass that’s canted several degrees (possibly in an echo of Pisa’s most famous landmark) and on the rocks … or, in this case, rock. The lone giant ice cube chills the drink without diluting it too much too fast. The orange peel garnish is traditional, and bar manager Pilar Guarddon Pueyo strongly advised us to eat the blueberries. Best of all, it’s considered an aperitif, so after savoring one, you can turn your attention back to pizza. With gusto.