Gusto | Melrose/ Beverly/ Fairfax | California, Italian | Restaurant
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Gusto manages to walk a fine line: it's cozy and homey yet still hip. It's a Fairfax neighborhood joint but still special enough for a nice night out. It serves familiar food but chef Vic Casanova pushes the edges, just a bit. Among the appetizers, the braised octopus (polipo) is a must-order: teeny baby octopi that are almost too adorable to eat, tenderly cooked with cannellini beans and harissa. The polpette (pork shoulder meatballs) are ridiculously moist and rich and large enough to share. Pastas are homemade and cooked just to al dente, and pan-seared branzino is served under a pitch-perfect medley of salty olives, sweet artichokes, and bright basil.

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