Of course, if you’re in the mood for meat, there’s a bargain filet mignon ($25), served quite rare, but with full flavor for a cut that doesn’t always have it, and a side of mixed red and green peppers (some pickled, some not), along with dabs of seasonally delicious pesto. Veal scaloppini ($19) are not breaded; they are very thin scallops of veal with actual flavor, as well as a lemon sauce, a side of sautéed baby spinach, and a garnish of little deep-fried shoestrings of zucchini.
As for the pizza for which Gran Gusto is known, to judge by a pizza Margherita ($12) we had as part of our appetizer course, the wood-fired oven delivers a delectable crust with a bit of char, and the classic toppings of real buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, and newly picked basil are in order.
The wine list is all Italian and reasonably priced. We had a bottle of 2004 Carpineto Chianti Classico riserva ($48). The list has it as a 2003, but 2004 is probably a better year, and this wine has oak age to soften it and heaps of fruit to cover the 13.5 percent alcohol. (The 2006 regular bottling, in a lighter style, is $35). Decaf coffee ($2) was terrible our night, but a mini martini glass of cold (not iced) espresso ($3.50) was very refreshing on a hot evening, if slightly sweet.
Desserts are not usually a strong point at Italian restaurants, at least as reviewed in Greater Boston, but Gran Gusto has three ($8 each) worth the calories. The gold medalist is the ricotta pie — “not cheesecake,” emphasized our waiter — a small wedge but wonderfully fresh-tasting. The silver medal goes to a Neapolitan chocolate cake with a house-made blackberry sorbet, complete with a few seeds. And the bronze, though it was a close finish, is the tiramisu, properly made with a fine balance of chocolate-coffee-cream flavors.
Service at Gran Gusto is quite good, and the place does nearly fill up, even on weeknights. It’s a smart all-ages crowd, informal enough for pizza but dressy enough for risotto and major wine. The odd room (there are also some outdoor tables for summer) has kept the best of Tartufo’s design: rag-painted Tuscan ochre walls, a trompe-l’oeil mural of a stucco Italian-restaurant exterior, old wooden things hung up. Bring some good company, enjoy an excellent dinner, and you won’t even notice that you’re in the front room of a converted factory.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at RobtNadeau@aol.com.