Pizza is good. In a world of moral gray areas, pizza might be the only universal good.
I mean, love seems like a good thing, but we’ve all been through a break-up or two. Charity seems fine until you check into the way some nonprofits spend their money. (Use Charity Navigator to check. There are lots of great charities around here.)
I could go into further detail about how pizza is better than love, but then my thesis would start to fall apart and, look, I know you’re here for the food, so why not just get to it?
Oh, right...because I need to write about some other stuff first. (Don’t worry. We’ll get to the food soon and I promise it’s good.)
Pizzeria Gusto is one of OKC’s premiere pizza joints. While there will always be plenty of cheap-and-easy pizza restaurants around, thank god, it’s nice to treat yourself to the good stuff. Gusto has the pedigree, for sure. Owner Kathryn Mathis is the chef/entrepreneur/smart business person who brought us Big Truck Tacos and Back Door BBQ. So it’s safe to say she has an idea of what people like.
And, since I’ve got a fair idea of what I like, I took a bunch of friends with me to Gusto and made them eat the food I picked out. It’s not the worst thing in the world knowing me.
One thing I love about Gusto is the feel of the restaurant. There are a few little dining rooms, two long bars and tall tables between them. It has a bustling quality, but that might be because it’s always busy. Seriously. Get a reservation. The lines have died down a bit since it first opened, but there’s still a better-than-average chance you’ll have to wait a minute or two to be seated.
That said, practice makes perfect and it’s clear the servers at Gusto are seasoned professionals. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’ve had bad service until you see someone do it flawlessly. At least in my experience, Gusto hires some of the best.
I told you it wouldn’t be long.
My friend Jess is a wing connoisseur (her current favorites are at Sauced on Paseo, another excellent pizza place, while mine are at the wing-focused Wing Supreme) so of course we had to get Gusto’s famous Sriracha wings ($10).
I’ve been enjoying these wings since the day the restaurant opened (there’s actually a video of a much thinner, much less-gray Greg devouring a Sriracha wing in disturbing slow motion which I will not link to here, because you seriously don’t want to see it) and they’ve only gotten better.
Despite being pretty large—I personally prefer a smaller wing, for more even cooking—these were magnificent. Crispy with a sticky glaze of sweet, spicy sauce that really builds to a beautiful heat.
The fried artichoke hearts ($10), served with a harissa aioli, were another big favorite. The chokes themselves are tender, juicy, with just a bit of tanginess. They’re wrapped in this gloriously delicate crust that leaves your fingers a little oily, which is just a good excuse to lick them clean.
But the big winner was the burrata ($9). Served on walnut bread with finely diced mushrooms and honey, this cheese is a wild ride. It’s creamy and mildly tangy, with the earthiness of the meaty mushrooms and sweetness of honey on a dense, crispy slice of bread. It’s exceedingly difficult to share, but I love it all the same.
Not an app, but so good I cannot bear not to order it, the tuna conserva salad ($12) is like a salad mixed with a really good tuna sandwich. Arugula is tossed with fresh green beans and tomato in a lemon vinaigrette with spicy red onions and olives before they layer on heavy cannellini beans and oil-packed tuna. I first had this at a fundraiser years ago and it’s never been far from my thoughts. Like a long-lost love who, for reasons too difficult to explain, I just couldn’t work it out with, but who is also a salad covered in meat and beans. Classic love story.
Is the tuna conserva good enough to forgo pizza? Yes. But I always get pizza anyway because that’s how you get fat.
The table was split between the soppressata pizza ($14) and the cherry tomato pizza ($13, plus $4 for added anchovies).
The cherry tomato pie comes covered in tomato, yes, but also olives and capers and, yes, anchovies. My friend Julie said, in her best Mario impression, “That’s-a briny pizza!” Jess enjoyed it more, because she’s from New Yawk where babies are nursed from bottles full of liquid pizza.
Not that I was upset with the soppressata pizza, either. It’s not-quite pepperoni, with a somewhat less aggressive spice profile, but soppressata is a lovely Italian cured meat and it pairs very well on this pizza with Calabrese peppers. They’re not insanely hot peppers, but you can definitely get a little extra kick from them.
I feel like toppings get all the love here, but you have to appreciate the crust at Gusto. There’s some char from the super-fancy oven they use, but it’s also got this tremendous chewy pull that I deeply love.
It's especially evident on the meatball pizza ($14), which seems so laden with delicious toppings that the crust will fall apart. But here's the thing: It doesn't. Sure, you might need to fold a slice to catch any wayward peppers or onions, but the crust holds firm until you tear it with your teeth. It's also just a tremendous classic combination of flavors. If you're struggling with what to order, try this one. It's never once let me down.
Gusto is a real success story in the local restaurant industry. It’s a place that drew huge crowds when it opened and retained a lot of those customers to create a steady, sustainable business that never feels like it’s lost a step. Also, they do a killer brunch, if that’s your thing. (It’s definitely my thing.)