From the moment you enter Gusto da Gianni you feel like you've left Brisbane and arrived in the organised chaos of Italy. Bright red geraniums and a classic 1952 Lambretta adorn the entrance, while charming, attractive staff great you with the genuine warmth of European hospitality.
Gusto has been established at Hamilton's Portside Wharf for almost five years, and it's great to see it's lost none of its magic.
Sit in the covered alfresco section, with a view of the chefs in action; inside, with large rustic tables reminiscent of a dining room in a Tuscan villa; or if the weather's good, the best seat in the house is on the Riviera. Relax right on the water under an umbrella, and catch the best sunset in Brisbane. If it weren't for the City Cats gliding by you'd swear you were on a summer holiday on the Mediterranean.
The friendly, attentive, international staff are happy to help with menu suggestions and recommend a dish from their region. The food is focused on traditional, simple dishes using fresh ingredients and prepared with love, and they don't cost the earth either.
Pizzas start at $24 and the generous-sized mains range from $25 - $36. My recommendation: zucchini flowers stuffed with goat's cheese and olive tapenade, followed by the porcetta arrosto- rolled roast pork belly, with a pistachio filling, mashed potato and a rocket and pear salad, and an ice cold shot of limoncello to finish.
And then there's the bar- choose from an extensive list of over 150 wines , a range of imported beers, or work your way through the impressive cocktail list.
And what's the magic ingredient that makes Gianni's so popular with regulars and visitors alike? It's sophisticated yet unpretentious, casual and relaxed. Everyone feels welcome. You could easily find an elderly couple reading their weekend papers over a coffee, alongside a family with children running amok, next to a group of 20-somethings having a champagne-fuelled party well into the evening.
You never feel rushed to leave your table and you can feel the passion and warmth from the staff and management. The only problem is, once you've had lunch you could just as easily settle in for the afternoon over a few Aperol Spritzes and stay for dinner too!
Gusto da Gianni is open 7 days a week from 12pm till late. Portside Wharf, Hercules St, Hamilton. Bookings are recommended.