Buon Gusto da Morrone

Last November, restaurateur Enzo Rosano turned the casual Limone, little sister to his next door restaurant Locanda Positano, into the more formal Gusto. In a major coup, Rosano also brought in Executive Chef George Morrone to lead Gusto’s kitchen. Chef Morrone’s rich history includes winning awards and bringing four-star accolades to Aqua where he mentored Michael Mina, Fifth Floor, the too short-lived Redwood Park (where he partnered with Mina) and at the Cliff House. We tended to follow him wherever he went since we knew we would be in for an excellent meal, but he disappeared from the public face for awhile when he resurfaced as an occasional pop-up chef at Hog and Rocks (“Mondays with Morrone”) and at Limone. It was great to hear that he would be top toque at a restaurant again, so we were eager to venture down the Peninsula and try out Gusto.

In Italian, Gusto means ‘taste,’ and although the restaurant seems to bill itself as Italian, Chef Morrone’s French cooking technique was evident in every dish we tried. There are about a dozen items on the menu between starters and main courses — none of them are pasta, which makes sense since pizzas and pastas can be had next door at Locanda Positano.

We started with the Black Mediterranean Mussels served with a crostini topped with chorizo aioli. The garlic butter broth was laced with cilantro, and the shellfish were all meaty and very tasty, especially when eaten with a little bit of the aioli:

The Duck “Cassulett” Ravioli was a perfect example of Chef Morrone’s Franco-Italian merging of techniques. All the flavors of a Provençal cassoulet were present (duck, beans, sausage), but encased in a giant raviolo form. The pasta was filled with duck confit and the sauce included white beans, sun-dried tomato, garlic sausage and drizzled with lemon thyme:

There were three of us dining together, and our companion started off with the perfectly Grilled Sonoma Quail accompanied with a beautifully fanned balsamic braised red onion quarter and a chickpea salad:

The wine list was comprised of Californian and Italian wines and we selected this white bottle of Terredora di Paolo Falanghina from Campania to pair with our meal:

The Roast Loch Dart Salmon really showed off Chef Morrone’s genius of putting together an alchemy of disparate ingredients. The salmon came with a mandarin marmalade, garlic crème and paprika braised cabbage which are all strong flavors in opposite directions (sweet to spice). Chef Morrone brought out the plate and instructed that each bite should include a little bit of everything, and it was a revelation:

The Beef Tenderloin was a vision of red bathed in Barolo butter. The beef was perfectly rare and tender, so much so that we asked Chef Morrone if he had applied a sous vide technique, to which he declared that he was vehemently against that cooking style and that it was definitely not for him. The parsnip purée that came with it was creamy and rich and the roasted rosemary fingerling potatoes added a steakhouse feel to the crimson plate:

The Sea Scallop “Spiedini” alternated the perfectly cooked shellfish (rare in the center) with cipollini onions, smoked bacon and trumpet mushrooms:

They have three items on their dessert menu, and Chef Morrone suggested that we take a Butterscotch Pot de Crème “Bites” order for dessert. The small size was just right since the dessert was deliciously rich and creamy:

We also shared a Grand Marnier Panna Cotta accompanied with mandarin orange segments and a vanilla bean syrup. It was the right dessert to end a great meal:

http://www.gustosancarlos.com

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