As a youth, I once was among a group of people who – for reasons too dreary to go into – had to fill in a questionnaire which included, “do you eat your food with gusto?”
Among our number, there was one who was puzzled, imagining gusto to be some form of savoury sauce. More recently, after visiting restaurant Gusto in Plovdiv, I read on their website that “gusto” is slang in that city for “having a good time”.
In spite of my long acquaintance with Plovdiv, I had not heard this before, and asked one well-qualified to pronounce on such matters whether it was true. And indeed it is.
But how is the restaurant?
With friends and family, many visits have been made there in recent years, and on one recent weekend, two on consecutive nights.
Gusto styles itself a restaurant offering Mediterranean-style cuisine and justly boasts of its central location, technically on Otets Paisii Street but close to a very popular corner of Plovdiv’s main shopping street. There is something of an Italianate feel to the place, perhaps in the hues of the décor, perhaps that more than once that language has been heard being spoken by other clientele.
As a matter of habit, I opened with the Horiatiki Greek-style salad, accompanied by a large rakiya (life is too short for small ones, and I would not be driving) which arrived promptly enough; on both occasions, when I ordered my full meal on arrival, I was asked the timeframe I would prefer for the main dish to arrive – in many places these days, that Bulgarian habit of yore, of everything arriving at once or in the wrong order, seems to have been knocked on the head.
Foregoing ordering a favourite, the Bruschetta “Al Palmidoro”, to accompany the opener – in spite of happy associations with it on all but one occasion a few years ago, when the bread was a little elderly for respectable company – I lingered in conversation as my companion and I gazed on the passing parade.
That Saturday, my companion – all of 11 – insisted it was pizza night; she opted for the margarita and I the Hawaii (hold the ham).
Pizza sizes run to the large in scale, but at least the menu warns in advance – the smaller is 450g and the larger, 550g. A word to the owners: invest in some larger plates; my large pizza teetered slightly over the bounds of the crockery.
On both recent nights, torrential rain that made hotfooting it away with even the hottest of feet impossible was also a nice excuse to indulge in the dessert offerings. On the Friday night, it was crème brulee all round, and suffice to say, they got the crust right, which few in Bulgaria do; on the Saturday; my young companion opted eagerly for the chocolate soufflé (effectively a baked pudding) and I the Ice Cream Tutti-Frutti. As to the latter, it was fortunate that I had a member of a family with a sweet-toothed tradition to help me out.
For those who do not speak Bulgarian, it seems that at least some of the staff can, though my ordering was done in Bulgarian. With drinks and tips, each meal came in at about 20 leva a head, much less for those not consuming alcohol.
26 Otets Paisii Street, Plovdiv
Telephone: (+359) 32 623 711.
Restaurant reviews by The Sofia Globe are written after at least two visits. Reviewers do not announce themselves in advance or identify themselves during the meal. No form of payment is solicited or accepted from the restaurant.