From: , Organic Consumers Association, More from this Affiliate
Published January 24, 2008 12:39 PM

First 100% organic, 'green' restaurant opens in NYC

Gunning for a national presence, New York City's first green- and organic-certified restaurant has opened its doors.

Gusto Grilled Organics is a Greenwich Village eatery serving 100 percent, organic, Latin-inspired cuisine for eat-in, takeout and delivery.

Argentinean native Alberto Gonzales, who is majority shareholder of Gusto Grilled Organics Inc., told Sustainable Food News: “We are completely organic.”

That’s almost an understatement; employees aren’t even allowed to non-organic food into the restaurant, which is certified organic by NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC.

Gusto opened about 10 days ago with no fanfare or public relations campaign, Gonzales said. And the place has been mobbed, he said.

The restaurant goes beyond just organic fare. All packaging is eco-friendly, and most of it biodegrades in 90 days, Gonzales said. All the furniture was made with recycled wood from old barns in the region.

The restaurant also uses LED lighting and green-certified cleaning products and processes.

Gusto is certified as a “Green Restaurant” by the Boston-based Green Restaurant Associations (GRA), one of only a handful of New York City restaurants to achieve the distinction. Gusto has completed 22 Green Steps required by the GRA’s rigorous guidelines.

Next month, the restaurant’s power will switch to wind energy thanks to an innovative program with the city’s utility Consolidated Edison, Inc.

“It will be more expensive, but we really don’t care,” Gonzales said of the energy switch.

But the statement also seems to reflect his - and his partners’ - strategy to pioneer the organic foodservice industry.

“We’re not planning to make money,” Gonzales said. “We want to expand.”

The vision is to establish up to eight units by the end of the year, spreading its presence first throughout New York City, then targeting Chicago followed by the Los Angeles market with franchise opportunities available.

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Gonzales wants Gusto in the future to be known globally as a leading organic restaurant chain pioneering green practices. The company’s Web site heralds a “better world” based on its philosophy: “a world where personal and business achievements can be done by being truthful.”

Gonzales said he’s been studying the idea of opening an all-organic and green restaurant in the United States for nine years. Having been a visitor to America during that time he’s “discovered that the food chain is not sustainable in your country.”

The menu at Gusto changes daily, Gabriel Scott, one of the restaurant’s managers, told SFN. Patrons can order anything from organic steak entrees in the evening to organic breakfast foods in the morning.

Gusto also offers a selection of empanadas and pastries. Many of the offerings, including meats, pizzas and vegetables, are grilled over an open flame, a common technique in Argentina.

Its biggest so far is probably the organic steak sandwich, which sells for between $12 and $14, Scott said. Other items include sandwiches, pizzas, soups and salads.

The restaurant also sells several risottos ranging in price from $13 to $16 during the evening. The organic steak entrée sells for $24.

Gonzales said most of the organic ingredients for the menu are sourced locally in order to cut down on “freight and fuel.”

All meal portions are controlled and served by the unit — as a way to help fight the nation’s growing obesity epidemic.

Of course, the salt and water used in the restaurant is not organic since they are minerals.

Gonzales said the salt is all-natural, and instead of using bottled water, which he said is a major - and growing - source of garbage, he goes a more sustainable route.

The restaurant uses purification technology from Italy on New York City water (actually heralded as some of the cleanest in the nation) to produce what Gonzales describes as “99.9 percent pure” water for drinking and in all ingredients.

Gusto is now applying for its wine and beer license, and plans to be offering organic varieties of both in about three months.

Customers can currently bring their own wine, but only if it is certified organic.

The restaurant, located at the Avenue of the Americas and 14th Street is also having its basement renovated. Gonzales wants to conduct public tours of the cellar and all the organic ingredients it stores.

“We want everybody to emulate what we are doing,” Gonzales said, “and that will help drive the price of organic down.”

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