Gusto Italian Grill, the latest entry to the burgeoning local fast casual scene, is set to open Thursday at the corner of Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street in Bethesda.
The Italian concept is modeled on the quick-service style and food quality of Chipotle. Diners will be able to choose from a wrap, pasta or salad and then have options such as meatballs, porchetta, chicken and steak, as well as a variety of vegetables and sauces to add on top.
Josh Grim, the CEO and Chevy Chase resident, said the products are sourced from local farms, as well as his own family farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Grim is developing the concept for possible expansion, and already has a second location in Silver Spring primed to open in early November at 8512 Fenton Street across from the Whole Foods Market.
“We want to be on the forefront of changing food culture in America,” Grim said Friday. He said he hopes he can mimic the success of fast casual restaurants like Cava Mezze Grill and &pizza by offering quality ingredients with fast service.
“If you come in and there’s a line of 30 people, we want to get you in and out in 10 minutes or less,” Grim said.
Grim described the restaurant’s design as “urban Italian farmhouse.” There’s hand-blown glass chandeliers, white-washed barn wood, a soap stone counter top and wood tables. The interior seats about 40 people and the there’s room for another 30 customers to sit on an outdoor brick patio. When the weather’s nice, the restaurant can open its three large front doors to give the space an al fresco feel.
In addition to offering its main line of bowls, salads and wraps, the restaurant also offers Gusto stix and gelato pops. The stix are similar to breadsticks—they’re made with the restaurant’s Italian flatbread wraps and stuffed with pepperoni and cheese. The restaurant partnered with the gelato shop Dolcezza, which has a Bethesda Row location, to make the proprietary pops, which are offered in flavors such as chocolate, strawberry, raspberry and vanilla.
On Thursday, Grim said the restaurant will donate 100 percent of the money it makes to Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Walt Whitman and Walter Johnson high schools.
All photos by Andrew Metcalf