In a classic example of the Shakespearean Much Ado, the staffing changes at Pizzeria Gusto earlier this year became Winnipeg media fodder. Chef Scott Bagshaw enjoyed the ‘Would you Sleep with that Customer?’ game and shared his proclivities with a local writer in her foodie book The Last Crumb. Said hormonal comments got him fired AND for some reason became worthy of columns in the Free Press and the CBC. We all questioned the fate of Pizzeria Gusto sans Chef Scott. And while some might have considered Bagshaw’s comments ill-advised, it is worth noting that Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey have both crafted empires based on inappropriate commentary. Scott just got a bit confused and forgot that the Winnipeg dining scene is more about celery than celebrity – and that no one really cares about his aching loins.
Grand Dame Marion ‘I Wouldn’t’ Warhaft weighed in post scandal this summer, citing inconsistent quality and dissatisfaction with her poached egg. Then the grapevine fell silent.
No doubt the pre-scandal (seriously?) food was excellent: the calamari with red wine vinegar syrup was surprisingly sweet and the pizzas were crisp and appropriately adorned. The Gambero died a sad death with Bagshaw’s departure, but I’m sure the recipe could have landed him a few inter-thigh adventures with customers on his ‘I Would’ list. Speaking of meat, Scott’s short ribs were great. Many of the pizzas were stars in the oh-so-dirty-oh-so-good opus which plays out when pig fat meets dairy fat. Punctuate the pork-cheese harmony with little intermissions of pickle or spice, lay it on a smoky crunchy crust, and you’ve got a good pizza.
So fast forward six months: Pizzeria Gusto seems to be doing just fine after the cataclysm. They still have the annoying habit of refusing reservations and then sending you down the way to J.Fox’s to have a drink, where I for some reason feel like an extra on a movie set that’s not completely dressed for action.
Many of the pizza standards remain: the charitable Sylvia, the Commish, the meaty Don, and the Sinatra. The only difference I can perceive is that their cute little fork-pizza cutters are getting a little dull from the thousands of pizzas they’ve sliced. On my two recent visits the crusts have been crisp, and the toppings sufficient in quantity, quality, and distribution. Last week’s special, the Acadian, was like a little tutorial in the virtues of combining pork fat and cheese with pickled peppers. The grilled Caesar is the king of umami-dom and the pannacotta was a perfect whisper of an ending. (Cue: elevator music.)
It doesn’t appear that Bagshaw’s profile in the Last Crumb was the last straw for him or for Pizzeria Gusto. I think the important lesson here is that shit happens, people part ways, but pork and cheese always remain the best of friends.