For a night out in Auckland city and a good Italian Restaurant I would definitely recommend Gusto at the Grand in Federal Street. The head chef is the famous and talented Sean Connolly, the food is delicious, the portions generous and the service, lead by Edward Hurrell, is efficient, professional and friendly. Sometimes restaurants in hotels get mixed reviews, as some diners (and critics) are very interested in the look, furniture and atmosphere of the place. Me, I don't give a toss if the food is a real experience, like in this case.
In fact i like to add that since I like to travel and these days I don't travel as much as I would like to, going to hotels to eat feel a bit like being away and makes a night out even more special! Also, I have to say that sadly the service in many New Zealand restaurants and cafes is so poor that is embarrassing, and when I go to the city centre and I need a coffee I try to go to some hotels just because I know that the staff there is really nice, coming from hospitality business schools, professionals!
But back to Gusto, and to why we liked it. To start I can say that I would have been happy even just with the antipasto: a caprese salad, Parmigiano Reggiano with olives and breadsticks, and focaccia bread, simply because it was all really 'Italian', even if only the Parmigiano and olives came from Italy and the rest was produced or made locally. The 'spirit' of the place is Italian, i.e. the ingredients are top quality, and they are combined, prepared and cooked in a way that feels respectful to that quality.
The first courses were our mains (since we don't eat meat) and I really liked my choice: the Sardinian ravioli with potato, mint, pecorino, and sage butter, while Peter's choice (and favourite) was the Orgy of mushrooms and buffalo ricotta gnocchi. I also had the gnocchi when I dined and Gusto last month to meet Antonio Carluccio, and they tasted even better than the first time, so light and delicate, quite different from anything I have ever eaten before. BTW, Carluccio is a friend of Sean and very complimentary about the British chef, saying that he really understood what Italian food is all about!
Mmmh, I am still thinking about the Sardinian ravioli… but on to dessert! I was really full, but I heard so much about Sean's nutella bombolini that I had to try them! They come seven (7!) in a bowl, and the lovely Italian waitress (from Veneto) told me that she would put in a bag what I couldn't eat. I had one, nice and warm, and the remaining 6 I took home for the kids for breakfast, and they were very very grateful (they send their compliments Sean!). Peter had the panna cotta with rhubarb and strawberries, unusual the presentation in a deep plate, but probably twice the amount of panna cotta that you get in any other restaurant I have been! And it was delicious too.
So compliments to the chefs and staff, we will be back!
90 Federal St, Auckland, 1010
Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©