Regulars and Shorts

CATALYST Cafe: Gusto!

By Katherine Pioli

A young sister-and-brother duo run Gusto!, a tiny Avenues shop.
by Katherine Pioli

In English the word “gusto” is commonly used as in to do something with gusto-with flair, energy and enthusiasm. In Italian, the true origin of the word, gusto (pronounced goo-sto) actually means flavor. One might use the phrase un buon gusto to say that a dish has good flavor. In the case of Salt Lake’s avenues restaurant Gusto! Take-Away, both meanings-good flavor and enthusiasm-apply.pioli_cafe

Gusto is a small, neighborhood deli-style shop serving salads, soups and hot and cold sandwiches with creative names such as Pinko Commie Pastrami and BLT & A. Run by a young brother-and-sister duo, Shauna Berg and John Hague, the shop has only enough space for the commercial kitchen, a small table and a few seats along a counter.

The conservative amount of space available to customers is no joke, but it does make a good story. The highly personable John, who just graduated from high school last year, jokes about one overly crowded lunch hour. “Remember when the architects came here for lunch?” He crosses his arms and grins. “I was so scared.”

Shauna, the “straight man” in this routine, thinks back to the event and agrees. The space, she admits, was really too small to comfortably accommodate all eight men who came in to pick up their carry-outs and pay at the same time.

Lucky for Shauna and John they have a good neighbor. The Pickett Fairbanks Gallery occupies the adjoining space, and customers from both sides freely walk through the doorway. In fact, they are encouraged to. The deli invites people to go look at the art while their sandwiches are being made. “It helps us clear this place out, too,” Shauna admits.

But just because Shauna and John get a little nervous with eight people crammed into the customer side of the deli, don’t think for a minute that they don’t love their patrons. There can hardly be a more friendly and ready-to-please pair.

In fact, getting to know his customers and sharing stories with the “regulars” is

what John likes most about his job. “I love meeting new people. Just walking down the street you don’t get that opportunity. But owning a business allows you to engage with people; customers appreciate that. They understand that, hey, this guy cares enough to talk to me.”

This easy, friendly relationship with their customers is a good sign and impressive considering they just a few months ago, owning a restaurant had only been a dream for Shauna. But a lucky internet search turned up Gusto Take-Away for sale.

The previous owners agreed to train Shauna and John in the preparation for all the foods on the menu. For the first two weeks they apprenticed under the old owners, were introduced to the regular customers-the business had been enjoying moderate success before the transfer-and then took over control.

Now Shauna talks about her restaurant’s food with a love and knowledge that makes her sound like a lifelong restaurateur. “We roast all of our chicken inhouse and we make our own red sauce,” she says. “The Utah cheese steak is not the most popular on our menu, but it is very good. We use provalone instead of the standard American.” They hope to grow their dinner menu, expanding from serving mostly the lunch rush. To encourage sit-down dining, their plan includes setting up tables inside of the art gallery-an idea embraced by the gallery owner. They also hope to soon provide catering services. And with all this new work they just might need to start hiring. Luckily, Shauna plans to wed her sweetheart Michael next summer-maybe they can keep their business in the family.
-Katherine Pioli

Gusto! Take-Away. Mon-Sat 11 am.-7:30 pm. Tel. 801-532-8488

This article was originally published on February 28, 2009.