The latest pizza joint from siblings Nina and Cesare Agostini of Farinella fame is a blast from the past. Located at the corner of Preston and Somerset, Retro Gusto oozes ’70s kitsch. Orange and yellow racing stripes pop against the chocolate-brown paint framing the bar. On the other side of the restaurant, wood panelling is punctuated by vintage Italian magazine covers and graphic posters for spirits, alongside neon signs advertising pizza and cocktails.
The aesthetic appeals to nostalgia for an era that neither owner lived through. Their youthful interpretation of the decade yields a cool factor that clearly appeals to the Agostinis’ cult-like following. On both my visits, the restaurant was packed with diners tucking into thin-crust, Roman-style pies as up-tempo dance music thumped in the background. This place is as loud as it is cool.
The cocktails on offer are strictly limited to classics — mostly of Italian heritage. Herbal, bittersweet Italian liqueurs, known as amari, feature prominently. While there’s comfort in the familiarity of drinks like the Negroni and Aperol Spritz, options that go beyond bitter or boozy are in short supply.
The food menu offers a handful of appetizer options and six or seven pizzas. On my first visit, roughage was entirely absent from the menu. Upon returning, I was delighted to see the addition of a simple but tasty arugula salad: peppery greens perched on a bed of peach agrodolce, served with sliced pears, salty shavings of pecorino, and a bright lemon vinaigrette. The mortazza appetizer is another worthy snack comprised of heaps of imported, thinly shaven mortadella, an avalanche of grated Parmigiano reggiano, and a drizzle of signature Farinella hot honey.
Clearly, Cesare Agostini is passionate about pizza, as the menu features detailed statements outlining the provenance of the pizza dough and the flours used therein. The thin-crust dough boasts a pleasantly light chew and crisp, charred edges. Beyond the crust, the quality of the slice varies wildly. The “patate” pizza is an abject failure: diced, boiled white potatoes are starchy and flavorless atop a thick layer of smoked provolone with a spartan smattering of Luciano’s sweet sausage and approximately seven rosemary leaves.
By contrast, the ’nduja pizza is a triumph. Raw crushed tomato and fior di latte serve as the foundation and are enhanced with spicy ’nduja sausage, toothsome eggplant (marinated and grilled in-house), and fresh basil leaves. The zucchine pizza is a winning option from the selection of white pizzas. But all could benefit from a more restrained hand pouring the olive oil that finishes every pie. Ask for extra napkins.
While there’s plenty of room for improvement, I expect the Agostinis will expand their offering at Retro Gusto and continue to delight pizza lovers — as they have at Farinella.
122 Preston St., RetroGustoEats.com