Sean Connolly is extending his philosophy of simple, uncomplicated food with the opening of authentic Italian restaurant Gusto at the Grand, adding another quality dining destination to SKYCITY’s Federal Street in central Auckland.
At Gusto – pronounced guh-stoh - the dishes are rustic and true to Italian values, referencing Connolly’s passion for simple food, classic flavours and fresh seasonal ingredients, designed to be shared amongst friends.
Connolly, who opened The Grill by Sean Connolly in Federal Street in 2011, says his vision for an Italian restaurant developed when he saw the beauty in simple food during filming for his show My Family Feasts six years ago.
“Italian food feels like a natural progression for me, and the concepts are very close to my own philosophies around food. Historically, Italian food is made to be shared, and I am respecting this tradition at Gusto.
“I visit Italy regularly with my family, where we have enjoyed Turin’s slow food festival and the white truffle festival in Moncalvo. I love to share food and the Italians do it so well.”
Connolly says Gusto is designed to present New Zealanders with the atmosphere and flair of hotel dining that is so popular in the world’s great cities such as New York, London and Paris.
“Everybody deserves to eat well at Gusto and enjoy true Italian food. From friends sharing around the table to the lone traveller, to SKYCITY Grand Hotel guests, we’re aiming to bring cool back to hotel dining.”
He says Gusto’s menu reflects the philosophy of “the less you do the better” and he already has favourites vying for signature dish honours.
“I love our vitello tonnato – it’s slow roasted veal and the tuna dressing emphasises our respect for Italian cuisine.
“For our acqua pazza – literally meaning crazy water – we ship in Coromandel seawater daily to cook our fish.”
Gusto at the Grand supports the modern dining room trend of celebrating not only the food but also its preparation, with a large open kitchen and chef’s table at its heart. Here six to eight guests can really experience the buzz of a restaurant in full swing.
Italian wine has a major presence, with up to 200 wines on offer.
The restaurant spans the lobby and is reminiscent of dine by Peter Gordon, which Connolly says is like working in the ruins of an old, Roman monument.
“I am proud to see glimpses of the old dine, and look forward to creating new memories in this exceptional space,” says Connolly.
Comfortably accommodating 90 in the main room, Gusto features SKYCITY’s largest private dining room which seats 28.
Designed by Gordon Moller of Moller Architects, Gusto’s interior is classic Italian. White arabescato marble and gold onyx, timber floors and stained American ash tables with Thonet chairs enhance the European look and feel. Rich colours and tan leathers support the design concept.
Artwork is by Archibald Prize-winning Sydney artist Jason Benjamin with the main feature a four metre-long rendition of an octopus entitled ‘Love In Venice’.
Gusto opens in late February for buffet breakfast, and a la carte lunch and dinner as well as for room service and boasts a traditional Italian espresso bar.