First Look at Gustazo Cuban Restaurant & Café in Cambridge
The larger, second location for the Waltham favorite has a full bar with cocktails created by Backbar's Sam Treadway.
After nearly a decade of serving up vibrant Cuban food in the Boston suburbs, Gustazo Restaurant owners Patricia Estorino and Adolfo de la Vega are opening a second location in Cambridge—and they could use a drink.
Gustazo Cuban Restaurant & Café is now open in Porter Square with menu favorites from the Waltham location, plus an all-new cocktail program created by acclaimed local drinksmith Sam Treadway. Gustazo quietly debuted in Cambridge over the weekend, Eater Boston reports, and it officially kicks off dinner service tonight.
Gustazo debuted in Belmont in 2011, and relocated to its current home off of Moody Street in Waltham in 2014. For years, the married duo has wanted to shine a brighter spotlight on Cuban rum, Estorino says, but they don’t have space in Waltham for a full bar. After securing the former Elephant Walk restaurant in Porter Square, they put a bar-program plan in motion and solicited the help of Treadway, whom the couple got to know over many nights spent at his Somerville spot, Backbar.
“We wanted to have a bar that speaks to the Cuban heritage… but we also wanted to have someone who could be really creative with the new cocktails and span the classics,” Estorino says. They have that in Treadway, a past Best of Boston bartender. In addition to highlighting rums, Treadway is also inspired by Caribbean cocktails more broadly, he told Eater Boston. Among the bartender’s original drinks for Gustazo is Brazilian Saoco, a play on a traditional Cuban gin-and-coconut highball, the saoco. Treadway’s version uses Avuá Cachaça from Brazil, coconut, lime, maraschino, and soda.
“Ever since my days at Eastern Standard, I’ve gained a passion behind the history of drinks,” the bartender says. “It’s great to explore classic Cuban cocktails, and I’m excited about this restaurant because the food is delicious and feels like it comes from the heart.”
Gustazo’s new, 7,000-plus-square foot space actually has room for two bars; the team renovated Elephant Walk’s former downstairs bar into a welcoming lounge area with high-top communal tables and a 15-seat bar, and they built a new, nine-seat bar on the second floor. De la Vega did much of the work himself, Treadway shares. They plan to install a piano upstairs, and also bring in live entertainment, like a jazz trio, to perform downstairs in the future, Estorino says. Overall, the restaurant accommodates more than 250 people.
Gustazo Cambridge involves another big-name Boston hospitality pro in general manager Thomas Mastricola. Most recently at the front-of-house helm of Cultivar, Mastricola was opening general manager of Café ArtScience, and is also an alum of Commonwealth, Clio, and No. 9 Park.
“He’s a fantastic guy, and as a general manager he brings a lot to the table,” Estorino says.
Food-wise, the menu is similar to Waltham’s, but with a few changes, says Estorino, the restaurant group’s chef. Her popular tostones tacos (shells of twice-fried plantain slices) are filled with braised duck in Cambridge instead of ropa vieja, though the popular shredded steak is available as an entree at the new restaurant. Estorino is also working on a bar menu, centered on Gustazo’s lunch-only Cubano and other sandwiches.
For now, Gustazo is open nightly for dinner service on the second floor only. In the coming weeks, it will gradually start seating downstairs, and add lunch service and Gustazo’s Best of Boston-winning brunch menu. Stay tuned for updates on Facebook.
Can’t get enough Cuban festivity—and rum? Allston’s seven-month-old Casa Caña Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar launches a new, monthly rum dinner series on Wednesday, March 20. ¡Salud!
Gustazo Cuban Restaurant & Café, 2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-714-5267; 663 Main St., Waltham, 855-487-8296, gustazo-cubancafe.com.
This story was updated Wednesday, March 20, with food and drink photos.