By Jennifer Brule
Posted: Wednesday, Dec. 04, 2013
With Trattoria Al Gusto, Mooresville adds yet another fine dining restaurant to its growing cuisine lineup. Located on N. Main Street in a historic, beautifully restored Catholic churchand the former location of Prickly PearTrattoria Al Gusto offers authentic, made-from-scratch Italian food. From the pastas and sauces to the salad dressings, desserts, and bread, everything is made in-house under the watchful eye of three chefs/owners. Brothers Patricio and Manuel Campoverde, and their partner, Gonzalo Orles, all natives of Ecuador, craft some of the tastiest Italian fare in the area.
Patricio moved to New York City when he was 18 and got a job as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant, he says. But after showing a natural talent and curiosity in the kitchen, he was soon promoted to prep cook.
The chef took me under his wing and taught me everything he knewthats how I learned how to cook Italian food, Patricio says.
Meals here start with baskets of warm, house-made breadsincluding crisp focaccia, soft brioche-style sliced bread, and crunchy bread sticksserved with a generous bowl of delicious, fresh pesto. Once you get settled, try the house Chianti, which is dry but smooth, with rich berry notes, and a nice complement to any meal.
Top choices for appetizers include gamberi picante in bruschetta (shrimp sautéed with tomatoes and green onion, served over garlic toast with a demi-glaze/white wine sauce). Another tasty option is scallops on a bed of smooth and rich cauliflower purée, served with flavorful sautéed button mushrooms.
For salads, you cant go wrong with the insalata Mediterrania, a bountiful mix of romaine lettuce with avocado, tomatoes, caper berries, and radicchio, tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette and topped with grilled calamari and shrimp. The insalata al gusto is also very good, with baby spinach and frisee with crisp pancetta, button mushrooms, and pine nuts, tossed in a delicious goat cheese dressing and topped with a perfectly poached egg.
The convivial servers are more than happy to recommend entrees and specials, including pasta dishes, which, not surprisingly, are one of the restaurants specialties. The fussily al gusto is particularly sublime, with fussily pasta tossed with salty, sautéed prosciutto, mushrooms, and sweet green peas in a cream sauce thats savory without being heavy.
A popular seafood dish is the sea bass, which is cooked to golden-brown perfection with a nice pan-seared crust on the outside, and served with spaghetti squash, asparagus spears, and sautéed baby artichokes. For something a little different, try the sautéed scallop and shrimp special, which is served over risotto that has been infused with black squid ink, and accompanied by rich Parmigiano Regioanno cheese.
The lamb shank is another not-to-be-missed entrée. The umami-packed meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, and served with a side of pillow-soft, ricotta gnocchi in a simple Marzano tomato sauce. Meat lovers should also consider the grilled pork chop, which is thick and juicy, and served with tiny, pickled pearl onions, caramelized apples, garlic mashed potatoes, and finished with a gorgeous, purple-hued Barolo reduction sauce.
And while it may be a challenge, try to leave room for dessert, which ranges from warm chocolate cake with a gooey center served with vanilla ice cream, creamy vanilla custard topped with caramelized bananas, and light and airy chocolate mousse.
With an extensive and varied menu, theres no shortage of authentic Italian options from which to choose at Trattoria Al Gusto. Trying to sample them all is an enviable task indeed.Trattoria al Gusto
761 N. Main St., Mooresville
Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, and dinner Saturday and Sunday.
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