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Trattoria Gran Gusto

Una notte a Napoli
By MC SLIM JB  |  December 26, 2007


A popular topic in Boston’s online dining forums is “Where can I find great New York–style pizza?” It’s usually asked by homesick Gothamites convinced that New York pies are the world’s greatest. In one sense, they’re right: whatever you first came to love as a child and now gives you comfort as an adult is indeed the best style of pizza. But so-called New York style is simply an oversize rendition of the thin-crust pizza of Naples, Italy, whence pizza originated. So a better question might be, “Where can I find great Neapolitan pizza?” One answer is Trattoria Gran Gusto, a three-month-old Cambridge restaurant with casual, rustic décor and an authentic take on the cuisine of Naples — not coincidentally the owner’s birthplace.

Gran Gusto’s Margherita pizza ($12) is a paragon of the style: a very thin crust lightly charred in a wood-fired oven, a bit of olive oil, a thin sauce of San Marzano tomatoes with a fine balance of sweetness and acidity, copious chunks of fresh mozzarella di bufala, and a sprinkling of fresh basil leaves. There are a half dozen more heavily laden pizza options, but it’s hard to imagine improving on this marvel of clean, well-composed flavors, especially atop this superb, alternately creamy and crispy crust. A salad such as the insalata di arugola (lightly dressed arugula, apple, and pecorino, $7.50) and one of these pies is a perfect light dinner of the sort you might be served in Napoli.

Other worthy options include il tagliere ($10.50), a top-notch cold antipasto of prosciutto, bresaola (a carmine, lean beef salume), sopressata-like coppa, aged pecorino, and softer, milder pecorino Toscano. The pappardelle salsiccia e funghi ($15.95), wide ribbons of housemade pasta in an elegant sauce of fresh diced mushroom and ground sausage, is another example of Campanian restraint and simplicity. But that pizza is what will call you back to this easy-to-miss spot in remote residential North Cambridge. When you bring your New York friends, ask the kitchen to slice the pizza once, so they can fold their slices in half. Maybe that’ll take some of the sting out of the Yankees’ latest post-season collapse.

Trattoria Gran Gusto, located at 90 Sherman Street, in Cambridge, is open Monday through Thursday, from noon to 10 pm, and Friday and Saturday, from noon to 11 pm. Call 617.441.0400.

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