Gusto in Hull is still making the best pizzas in the East Riding of Yorkshire
Nearly ten years on and Gusto in Hull is still making the best pizzas in the East Riding, as Dave Lee discovers.
It’s coming up to a decade since Gianpaul Redolfi and Alex Stothard opened their Italian restaurant Gusto on Hull’s bustling Newland Avenue and, I’m delighted to report, it’s better today than it has ever been. And it’s always been superb.
But it could all have been quite different. Alex, Gianpaul and members of their family were at the Manchester Arena on the night of the bombing there in 2017.
In fact, the lads were just a few yards away from the explosion.
Miraculously, beyond cuts and bruises and a concussion, they were relatively unharmed. It’s the kind of life-changing incident that may have led them to re-evaluating their careers, but – if it did have any effect – it seems to have spurred them on to further excellence. I’ve not eaten with them since before the pandemic and the increase in quality is noticeable.
Food better, service pin-sharp (thanks to Alex and his well-drilled team of waiting staff) and every table populated with merrily-chomping punters.
Gianpaul is steeped in northern Italian cookery, learned from his years spent training in the country and from the time he spent working with his restaurateur dad. There is the usual mix of pizzas, pastas, pesce and carni on their main menu but, despite eating at Gusto maybe a dozen times over the past ten years, I’ve never made it to the main menu. I have always ordered off the daily-changed specials and I see no reason to ever do any different.
The two or three starters and five or six mains on the specials always offer more than ample choice, every one of them being as tempting as the last.
The two starter dishes served up on the early evening we visit are typically inventive and robust. Aperitivo con Gusto consists of a brace of bartolacci (think big ravioli) filled with squacquerone cheese (think thick, yogurty, tangy mozzarella, but better) which are fried until crisp and served along with a glass of prosecco. On one plate are two things I’ve never sampled before but I can’t imagine a better way of enjoying either of them.
Alongside that came a bruschetta burratella; a toasted slice of crusty pugliese bread topped with seriously good burrata, tomato, rocket and just the right amount of n’duja salami slices. Some chefs go a bit too hard on the n’duja for my liking. It’s sometimes loaded so heavily onto a dish you can’t taste anything else. Enough to give background heat but no more, as here, is how I think it should come.
Unusually for me, I went for a pizza for my main. I make a fairly good pizza on my wood-fired oven at home, which my kids constantly nag me to prepare at their whim.
So, for once, I just wanted a pizza I’d had nothing to do with preparing. And Gusto still make the best pizzas in the East Riding. I ordered the Vianese off the specials, it arrived covered in mozzarella, violetta artichokes, taggiasche olives, San Daniele parma ham and some more of that amazing Puglian burrata. It was exactly what I needed to remind me that I’m actually rubbish at pizza-making compared with the real experts.
The image of the other main will live in my mind for some time to come. A tangle of saffron-infused linguini twisting round itself like 27 yards of dental floss, mixed with the meat from the spider crab whose empty carapace sat mounted on the top of the lot.
It’s an impressive yet slightly troubling sight to be face to face with your tea. I used to catch spider crabs on summer holidays in Cornwall (you need the right kind of rock pool and a broom handle, if you fancy trying it) but was never as fearful of the live ones as I was of this single dead fella. I am told the dish was excellent. I demurred from trying it myself as I was getting voodoo vibes from owld crabface, staring at me.
For puds, we had a perfectly excellent tiramisu and an even better cherry and sage vanilla cream crostata, a dish so pretty I didn’t want to stick a spoon in it. But, ever the professional, I did. A grand way to finish a properly satisfying meal.
Since eating at Gusto, I’ve heard that Gianpaul and Alex may be planning to move to bigger premises on the outskirts of Hull. I hope that rumour is true because it’s getting increasingly difficult to get a table at their current premises and because I know they’ll handle a larger place just as well as they’ve handled their wonderful little restaurant up till now. They simply don’t know how to mess up, these lads.
There are dozens – probably hundreds – of Italian restaurants in Yorkshire and it would be an impossible task to sample each and every one. But, of the many I have eaten at, Gusto is my favourite. Only the thought of the zabaglione at the Lanterna in Scarborough may make it lapse temporarily into second place. If Gusto does move to somewhere bigger, they may wish to consider adding zabaglione to their desserts menu just so they can claim permanent residence at the No 1 spot in my head.
Gusto, 26 Newland Avenue, Hull, HU5 3AF, tel 01482 446261, www.gustodagianni.co.uk. Open: Thursday and Friday, 5-11pm; Saturday, 1-11pm; Sunday, 2-9pm.