Behold: Spartacus! This gladiator of a pizza is armed with Italian sausage, pepperoni, banana peppers and mushrooms.
By Wini Moranville
Of all the places you can get pizza for lunch in Des Moines, Gusto might just lead the pack. Of course, their pizza is grand, but the exceedingly well-priced Divine 7 lunch special also gives Gusto the edge.
For $9.95 you get a 7-inch personal pizza plus a side and a fountain drink. And they’re not stinting on the options, either—you can choose any one of their 12-plus signature pies, such as the Duke (smoked brisket, barbecue sauce, colby jack and more) or the Mona Lisa (rosemary olive oil, cremini mushrooms, tomatoes, kalamata, Romano and fresh ricotta). Sound too newfangled for you? My more traditionalist dining companion thoroughly enjoyed the Spartacus (with red sauce, Graziano’s Italian sausage, pepperoni, banana peppers, mushrooms and mozzarella).
Side options are far from rote as well. Choose from two soups or three salads (panzanella, house salad or pasta salad). I was heartened to see the soups veered off the beaten path (no roasted red pepper soup the day of my visit!) to include Tuscan chicken with white beans or Thai peanut soup.
It’s an order-at-the-counter operation, but lunch was delivered in courses (first the soup/salad, then the pizza) by the gracious staff. The spicy peanut soup hit the spot on this cold day, and the simple but fresh and thoughtfully arranged house salad did the trick as well.
The pizzas were perfect. I snagged my all-time favorite, the Saltimbocca. With Marsala cream sauce, chicken, chipotle-garlic bacon, mushrooms, Marsala onions, sage, and a trio of cheeses atop Gusto’s thin (but not crackery) crust, what’s not to love?
The ambiance really shines during the day—literally. With windows on three sides of the space, the natural light is naturally uplifting. And on a sunny day, the casual place pretty much sparkles, all the way around.
We visited the near-downtown Gusto location (1905 Ingersoll Ave.; 515-244-8786). Other locations are in Johnston and West Des Moines (one near Waukee and a new one in Clocktower Square).