In case you haven’t yet discovered it, the lane opposite Fun Zone and the Qurum Natural Park, is one of the most underrated areas in Muscat when it comes to food almighty. Case in point: Gustoso.
Walking down this small street, I came upon a cosy looking restaurant. Two men sat at a table out front, sipping on their coffee and having a pleasant conversation. A woman emerged from inside, offering them biscuits. One of the men noticed my approach, and suddenly shouted out a warm greeting in a thick Italian accent. If only had my parents greeted me with the same enthusiasm when I came home every day, I thought. The woman holding the tray of biscuits introduced herself as Rosella, the man’s wife, and co-owner of the restaurant. She invited me inside with a wave of her hand. With a greeting like that, how could I resist?
The spacious restaurant was decorated in simple, vibrant colours, the white walls adorned with oversized photographs of Italian ingredients. I could see straight into the glassed-in kitchen. The Italian boys kneading dough on the countertops glanced up and smiled at me. I was totally transported.
Gustoso, which means “tasty” in Italian, opened in December last year when Rosella and her husband Luca met their Omani sponsor. They shared their vision of introducing authentic, modern Italian food to Oman. Though there are many so-called Italian restaurants in the capital, few offer the kind of dishes found in contemporary Italy. At Gustoso, the owners, the chefs, and the staff are all Italian, and thus uniquely qualified to present the food of their homeland. “If we have chefs from other nationalities they might try to customise,”Rosella explained.
At its core, Gustoso is a pasta bar where you can get fresh, healthy food fast. The concept reflects the modern culture in Italian cities where people no longer have time for a three-course lunch, but still want a proper meal, thus leading to the rise of the pizza and pasta bars.
This is not your typical quick bite. The fresh, handmade dishes at Gustoso taste luxurious, sans the wait. From the pizzas, for which the dough is made by the Italian chefs using all whole ingredients, with nothing processed, to the freshly made pastas, you can taste the quality.
“If you are born in Italy then you would think that food is in your DNA,” Rosella laughed, explaining that it is impossible for Italians to imagine any function, event or occurrence of their life without the involvement of food. There are 23 regions in Italy and they are all diverse in its culture and tradition, which is clearly reflected in their food. “It satisfies different tastes. You get spicy food in Colabria and sophisticated ones in Kimonter with cheese. Food most people are familiar with is found in the Roma Region, and seafood recipes from the coastal area of Italy.”
And it isn’t all about the cream and cheese. In fact, I learned that our beloved chicken alfredo isn’t even Italian, but an Italian-American creation. “There is a common misconception that pasta is junk food,” Rosella said. “In Italy we never mix two sauces. And pasta is never mixed with chicken or any other meat. Italian food is about keeping it simple and keeping it real. Our ingredients and recipes are simple.”
With one taste of true Italian cooking, I was converted by the crisp, thin-crust pizzas, topped with tangy tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese. The first thing I was served was Italian coffee - cold, sweet, and very refreshing - served in a tiny cup. And then Julia brought the staples, pizza and pasta, which didn’t quite look the way it usually does, but tasted way better. The pizza was cut in squares instead of triangles and was slightly... umm... flimsy for the lack of a better word. But man, did it taste delicious with the tomato sauce, cheese and thin yet crispy crust. “Bravo!”, I said after the first bite, echoing Luca. The pasta, as mentioned, was pure, clean with no added sauces or meat or veggies. Just good ol pasta and lots of cheese sprinkled with herbal oregano. Although I had eaten a lot, I did not feel heavy or jaded like I usually do after a large, cheesy meal. The food was simple but very nice, exactly like the restaurant, its owners, and the ambience.
Every visit to Gustoso offers a new battery of tastes and flavours, served in a fresh, modern space warmed by the hospitality and charm of my gracious hosts. Viva Italia, Viva Gustoso!
Qurum Gardens Complex, Qurum (Lane opposite Fun Zone)
+968 9739 7871