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Dining with Gusto

Al Parker - December 20th, 2010
Dining with Gusto! in Suttons Bay
By Al Parker
Just for the record, the colorful Italian eatery in Suttons Bay is pronounced “Goose-tow,” not “Gus-tow.”
“I don’t care how they say it, as long as they come in,” laughs Sam Hybels, owner of Gusto! on M-22 just a couple of doors north of Suttons Bay’s south blinker light.
In a prior life, the building housed Hattie’s, operated by noted restaurateur Jim Milliman. In 2003, Milliman decided to sell Hattie’s and Hybels, who had worked at the eatery, saw an opportunity. He bought Hattie’s, changed the menu and reintroduced the restaurant as Samuel’s.
About 18 months ago he transformed Samuel’s into Gusto!
“It’s been a good direction for us to go,” says Hybels, who comes from a family of self-proclaimed foodies and has been a chef for 20 years. “I really modeled Gusto! after a couple of Italian restaurants in Kalamazoo where we went when I was growing up.”
Hybels devotion to authentic Italian cuisine goes back many years and was sparked when he spent two weeks visiting Sicily. “I had been a corporate chef for 10 years and was burned out,” he recalls. “The Italian people are food people. They emphasize freshness and quality. That’s the way I do it.”

Gusto! offers the type of Italian meals that the public is used to enjoying.
“A lot of people enjoy Olive Garden,” says Hybels. “We do that, but we REALLY cook the food fresh. For example, all of our Alfredo sauce is cooked by each order – fresh cream, butter and aged parmesan cooked right in the pan. It’s Olive Garden’s price point with quality cooking.”
Unlike a lot of restaurants that feature several pages of choices, Gusto’s menu is simple, yet satisfying. For a quick lunch there are three flatbread sandwiches ($7.99), a meatball sub ($7.99) and a make-your-favorite calzone ($9.99).
There’s a daily soup special ($4.99) and an endless plate of iceberg or Caesars salad for $4.99.
Appetizers include three-to-an-order meatball sliders with pepperoni rolls, house-made marinara sauce and Italian cheese ($6.99) and a tangy baby back ribs sampler ($7.99) with four bones – just enough to get your fingers sticky.
“Our calamari appetizer is very popular,” adds Hybels. “But we caution guests that our calamari is not deep fried. It’s sautéed in a garlic-infused olive oil and finished with our pomodoro sauce. If people love squid, they’ll want to try this dish.”

It wouldn’t be an Italian eatery without pizza and Hybels offers up a basic thin crust 12-inch cheese pie baked in Gusto!’s stone oven for $8.99. Get creative with additional toppings at $1.25 each.
Seven classic pasta dishes each come with the endless salad of your choice and a steaming loaf of stone oven bread. They come in three sizes, depending on your appetite. The largest is an endless serving for the heartiest of appetites. Old school spaghetti and meatballs ($9.99 to $13.99), fettucine alfredo ($13.99 to $18.99), penne Bolognese ($14.99 to $19.99) and lasagna Bolognese ($13.99) are always popular.
It’s easy to pair up a perfect wine from Gusto!’s wine list, since the menu offers suggestions for each entrée. “We really tried to simplify our wine list,” explains Hybels. “All of our glasses are $5 or $8 and all of our bottles are $26 or $36. There’s a nice bottle to fit anybody’s taste.”
There’s a full bar that features draft beers, including an Italian beer Peroni ($3), Magic Hat #9 ($4) or Miller Light ($2). There’s always a seasonal local beer on tap – right now it’s Right Brain Brewery’s Will Power. Unusual bottled choices include The Poet Oatmeal Stout from New Holland Brewery ($5) and Harp ($4.50).
Sam’s Mom’s Carbonara features Mama Mucci’s garlic parsley linguini tossed with farm eggs, bacon, garlic-infused olive oil and topped with aged parmesan cheese ($14.99 to $18.99).
Meat-based classics include veal ($22.99) or chicken piccata ($16.99), or chicken ($16.99) parmesan, and a six-ounce top sirloin steak ($14.99). Vegetarians may opt for the eggplant parmigiana topped with pomodoro sauce and fresh mozzarella.
Round out the meal with one of four desserts, including a handcrafted tiramisu ($4.99), a Michigan-made gelato from Palazzolo’s ($3.99), chocolate vesuvio topped with Moomer’s ice cream and Sambuca caramel ($4.99) or a creamy order of Moomer’s ice cream ($3.99).

If you’d like your meal to go, check out the new Gusto! deli offerings - a variety of Italian specialties, including salads, soups, salad dressings, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, pasta Bolognese, fresh mozzarella cheese, kalamata olives, homemade bruschetta and more.
Hybels has had a good year so far and gives a lot of credit to his wife Michelle, chef Jabe Dalzell and Gusto!’s staff of 10, which swells to about 25 in the summer. To keep things busy in the off-season, Gusto! is planning Friday Night Date Nights with special rates for couples, including in-house daycare.
There’s also an assortment of 10 entrees under $10, including all the Italian favorites.
“I don’t think you’ll find anyone who puts more effort into the food than we do,” says Hybels. “We want value in every meal and in our wines. We’re foodies first and foremost and we love to make quality food for families or anybody.”

Gusto!, at 111 North St. Joseph St. in Suttons Bay, is open at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and opens at noon on Sunday. For info or takeout orders, go to or call (231) 271-6222.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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