“Gusto” in Italian means taste and that is exactly what one restaurant is bringing to Jacksonville Beach in more ways than one. Last week I sat down with Chef Tonino DiBella and his general manager Anna Smith who run and operate Gusto A Taste Of Rome which opened in Jacksonville Beach on June 18th, 2015. Gusto brings the authentic Italian experience to Jax Beach, as one enters the restaurant you can immediately see roman-style statues, various original paintings of the Italian landscape, live music playing jazz and Sinatra covers, as well as a strong Italian dialect emanating from the kitchen.
Chef Tonino is originally from Rome but moved to the United States at an early age, Tonino and his business partner Walter Bianchi grew up together as kids in Rome. Chef Tonino has made a name for himself in the restaurant business. He opened his first restaurant at age 18 which was a simple sub and pizza shop in Jacksonville Beach and since his beginnings he’s never looked back. Chef Tonino has built up and sold fifteen restaurants in the North Florida area during the span of his career and Gusto A Taste Of Rome is his latest endeavor.
While Chef Tonino specializes in Roman cuisine his patrons can come to find various menu items that stem from various regions of Italy including Sicily. And while pizza isn’t the main staple of his new restaurant it certainly still is a delicious part of the menu. Chef Tonino told me that the “Scaloppa Alla Gusto” which is a veal medallion topped with bruschetta and fresh mozzarella rose cream sauce served over spinach with side of pasta is his number one crowd pleaser. The “Ossobuco Di Maiale” which is tender pork shank slowly baked & topped with a creamy Marsala wine sauce & fresh mushrooms, served with roasted potatoes & seasonal vegetable is another popular favorite.
The signature drink at Gusto is the “God Father”, made with Glenlivet Scotch and Disaronno Amaretto. A second place runner up is the Italian twist on an old fashion called “Vecchio Stile” and it’s made with brown sugar, muddled oranges, Knob Creek Rye Whiskey. In addition to the signature cocktails that Gusto has to offer they have also been recognized amongst the top wine cellars of North Florida restaurants. If you love Mimosas, visit Gusto for Sunday brunch when they offer their “top-less” mimosas. Anna told me that one of the restaurant’s plans for the near future it to start hosting wine dinners and tours of Italy.
The restaurant is divided into three main sections; there is a casual dining area with high chairs and bistro tables close to the bar meant for smaller parties, then there is a fine dining area with larger tables draped in white table clothes, as well as a secluded area underneath an interior pergola which features intimate booths.
Tonino and his team stay involved in the Jacksonville community by contributing to non-profits and charities such as the Children’s Miracle Network and American Cancer Society. They also offer 15% off to the men and women in uniform who serve and protect as all here at home on the First Coast. The restaurant offers a kid’s menu and has an outdoor seating area where patrons are welcome to bring their pets. The restaurant is soon seeking to add additions on the current premises of the restaurant to further entertain it’s guests.
For music lovers Gusto offers a great line up of local musicians some of whom are Grammy award winning artists. On a regular basis they have jazz and Sinatra covers playing Wednesday through Sunday, Wednesday through Friday starting at 7:30 until 10:00 p.m., on Saturday starting at 8 p.m. until midnight, and from 6:00-9:00 p.m. on Sundays. Some of the restaurant’s regular acts include Murry Guff, Under The Bus, and The Groove.
Checkout Gusto A Taste Of Rome online at; www.gustojax.com.
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Written and published for BUZZ Magazine, April 2016.