On East 53rd street, just a couple of steps down from sidewalk level, nestles a lovely upscale restaurant named ‘Gusto va Mare,’ which, translated, means ‘Taste of the Sea.’
We went there for lunch one Sunday, my husband and I and our two small children. On walking in, we found an old world Italian ristorante that serves fish and dairy dishes.
Although not particularly child-oriented, they did not seem fazed by the children.
We were warmly welcomed by the staff and were seated and offered drinks immediately.
I ordered fresh, frozen strawberry grannada, which was absolutely refreshing. They offer various freshly squeezed and frozen fruit juices, sodas and a variety of wines.
Old-fashioned subdued lamps cast soft light over the blue and white tables. A brick wall divides the restaurant into two sections. The wall affords a separation between families with children, and businessmen or other patrons who prefer a quieter dining experience.
Hot crusty rolls were brought to the table along with spiced olive oil and the menus. The menus were concise and the dishes were described quite thoroughly, which is helpful for anyone with food allergies.
Elana Sniad, mother of six children, ranging in age from 5 to 26, runs the restaurant with extreme efficiency. She directs and oversees every detail, both in the kitchen and in the restaurant itself. Elana’s Mother is from Madrid (Spain), and her father from Milan (Italy). Her Italian grandmother passed on her love of preparing good food to Elana.
We did not have to wait long for our food. They do not have a special children’s menu but generally suggest fresh pizza, a highly successful idea. The children liked the pizza enough not to want to share too much of it with us, but what we did taste was excellent.
I ordered the Bruschetta to start – grilled bread with fresh mozzarella and garlic herbed tomato – which was seasoned perfectly. My husband, a vegetarian who does not eat cheese, ordered the Lentil Croquettes served with a Dijon mustard sauce. I tried one and found it tasty.
Elana told me that they do not cut up the vegetables until an order comes in. This has a special impact on their Tuscan french fries, which of course we ordered.
They are shoestring thin, crisp and absolutely delicious. Despite the spices, even the children loved them and we ordered more.
My husband and I both tried a fish dish, called Mahi Mahi, a Hawaiian fish with apricot sauce served on a bed of mixed greens, which was very good.
The ‘Lasagna Combinazione’ was my favorite. These combination platters are regarded as their specialty. The chef creates a plate with four different types of lasagna each with a different filling and sauce. For someone who loves lasagna or wants to try various flavors, this is a must. ‘Gusto va Mare’ also makes combination gnocchi or combination fish platters.
For those on a diet, they have an assortment of low-calorie soups. Since everything is freshly prepared, most dishes can be made without cheese or extra sauces. As a rule, they use only olive oil for cooking, and fresh herbs whenever possible.
Everything is freshly prepared including their homemade desserts.
For dessert, we ordered the cheesecake, the deep chocolate cake and the baked figs with a lambrusco sauce, to share. All were excellent. The cheesecake was creamy; the chocolate cake moist and faintly bittersweet, perfect for the chocolate-aficionado; the figs were delicious in their wine sauce. They also have a fine selection of coffees and cappuccinos to complete a fine meal.
‘Gusto va Mare’ is a classy Italian specialty restaurant, and would be perfect for a business lunch or dinner date. It is well worth a visit.

Gusto va Mare ■ Under OK supervision ■ 237 East 53rd Street Betw. 2nd and 3rd Ave. ■ New York, NY 10022 ■ Tel: 212-583-9300 ■ Reservations preferred