It’s a food truck instead of a brick-and-mortar restaurant, but the menu of Gusto on the Go Bistro has a solid foundation of flavor. In fact, its name is Italian for “taste” (and pronounced GOO-stoh).
To evoke a bistro feel for their mobile business, owner/operators Chris and Erin Mazzei wrapped their entire truck with a distinctive design of red bricks and a festive red-and-white awning. An uncle helped them overhaul the mechanics and interior of the 1983 vehicle, including the unique touch of installing a flat-screen television on the side.
“It gives people something fun to watch while they’re waiting for their food,” noted Erin.
Among the most popular shows is the movie “Ratatouille,” but others have included everything from “Sabrina,” with Audrey Hepburn, to a movie about Hearst Castle to cartoons for children’s parties.
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The truck has a regular weekday schedule, typically in the parking lots of San Luis Obispo businesses, but it’s also making appearances at special events and is available for catering a wide range of events. One recent job involved making 11 days of breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the crew of an indie film shooting in the area.
While neither of the Mazzeis had any food industry experience before firing up their food truck, Erin explained that “we received notable restaurant advice from some local industry veterans here in SLO that also happen to be longtime family friends.”
Chris brought his own chops to the kitchen, however. Cooking has always been his go-to stress relief, and Erin noted that “he’s really good at building up flavors throughout the cooking process.”
One example of that would be Gusto’s Kahlua pulled pork sandwich with authentic “low and slow” smoked pork, house-made Kahlua/mango barbecue sauce, Gouda cheese and sliced apple “slaw.” As Chris explained, you get the barbecue flavor, then a bit of the smoke from the pork, then the tang of the apples.
In developing the rest of the menu, Chris wanted “people to have a hard time ordering because everything looks good.” Unlike the singular niche focus that many food trucks in larger cities have, “We wanted to do a variety.”
To that end, among the current temptations on the truck menu are a hand-formed, pesto-infused burger topped with bruschetta and a creamy balsamic sauce, a vineyard French dip served with a red wine reduction au jus dipping sauce, and a caprese sandwich with handmade mozzarella, fresh basil and Roma tomatoes.
Chris makes everything possible from scratch, from sauces to salsas to the take-home meals that Gusto also offers. Available on a pre-order basis, the take-home concept “is still something we’re developing,” said Erin. “But it would be ideal for busy families or individuals who don’t have time (or the desire) to cook but are looking for healthy, fresh ‘family-style’ meals.”
Whatever they don’t make themselves, the Mazzeis try to source locally. The sandwich breads are from Edna’s Bakery, the desserts from Just Baked SLO, and the fresh mozzarella is personally handmade by Dr. Lou Tedone (who has made the fresh cheese for years for his family’s DePalo & Sons in Shell Beach).
Chris’ skills in the back of the truck are evenly matched by Erin’s at the front of the truck. She knows most of their customers by name and explains that “we want to focus on both food and customer service. Even though we don’t have a regular restaurant, we still want to create an environment that’s welcoming to people.”