Forget the too-cute name (Gusto, GustOrganics, or Gusto Organics depending on where you look), and the all-over-the-map menu, and think about the ideas behind GustOrganics. According to their website they are “the first and only certified organic restaurant in New York.” They also claim that they are “one of the greenest restaurants in the world.” Now take a look at the grilled vegetable pizza above and ask yourself a question: Why would a restaurant that obviously prides itself on using such fresh and natural ingredients be serving fresh tomatoes in mid January?
Perusing the menu at GustOrganics was confusing. Pizzas ($5-$9 on the lunch menu) were way cheaper than the sandwiches ($13-$15). This was explained when my friend Jess ordered the grilled vegetable pizza and the server asked if that was all she wanted. “Just to warn you,” she said, “it’s pretty small.” She made a shape about the size of a CD case with her hands. This gave us pause (literally); we had to consult the menu once again with this in mind. Jess ultimately stayed with the pizza but also ordered a fruit salad (more about that in a moment) while I went with sounded interesting, a grilled vegetable piadini. Not that I was sure what a piadini was.
So here’s the fruit “salad” that came out first. What’s the first thing you think when you see it? I bet it’s the same thing that Jess and I both thought when we saw it: Fruit salad? More like fruit soup! Childish, perhaps, but look at the thing. We had to fish around in the juice to get at the pieces of fruit.
So the pizza (with the optional whole wheat crust) was not so good. “Make sure you say it was hard to eat,” said Jess. Done. The crust looked and tasted a bit like matzah, she said. I declined the offer of a taste.
The piadini turned out to be kind of a panini, made with a thick tortilla instead of bread. It was fine, nothing special. Again, they used summer vegetables in the dead of winter (except for the earthy mushroom, which was the best part). Sure, it’s pretty, but looks aren’t everything. The vegetables were under-seasoned and a bit mealy. The salad that come with it was good, except for the rubbery cucumbers — but hey, at least they were organic. Whatever that means.
Why, oh why do these “natural” restaurants insist on fighting against flavor? Some basic salt would have improved the flavor of the meal, though a winter tomato is only going to be so good. I think the capper on the lunch came with the bill, when the pen they provided for signing didn’t work. It was just another in a long line of minor disappointments at GustOrganics, which added up to one big disappointing lunch.