I recently visited GuGu’s Pizza & Pasta to get some lunch before returning to the library. I had discovered this brand-new Italian café on Yelp, searching for lunch spots within walking distance of my “workplace” — Santa Clara City Library. It was listed as inexpensive and rated well with the few reviewers who had posted there, so I decided to walk the 15 minutes to Homestead and Scott and check it out.
GuGu’s is a small, colorful space with only eight tables and some bar-style seating. Its many windows let in plenty of natural light in the daytime, and the decor is cheerful, mostly in vivid red, yellow, green, and blue. the tables are small, just about right for two diners (or one diner with a laptop computer), though I imagine larger groups could push a few tables together. The website and the signs on the windows advertised free WiFi, but I had trouble connecting to it and had to resort to my cellular connection. Oldies were playing loudly on the restaurant’s speaker system, pleasantly drowning out the kitchen sounds coming from behind the bar. The walls were decorated with Italian-food-themed art, various photographs, bits of Americana, a map of the South Bay, a Hall of Fame for those who’ve endured the restaurant’s touted Habanero Hawaiian pizza, old-fashioned food ads, and entries in the restaurant’s coloring contest for children. Their web site advertises that they show
The menu is brief and printed on paper, clearly designed to be a tri-fold mailer, but it has all the core favorites that you’d expect to find in inexpensive Italian fare. After looking it over very briefly, I decided to order the spaghetti and meatballs and a cherry Italian soda, which came to $10.80. The salad came out shortly after I had a seat, a large-ish plastic bowl with lettuce, tomato, onion, mushrooms, and fennel. It was fresh and tasty topped with some red vinegar. Before I was done, the spaghetti and garlic bread arrived on a small oval paper plate. I was a bit surprised that the portion size was so small. The noodles were *almost* as soft as I like them (they were past al dente, but not quite fully cooked), and the marinara sauce was tangy and flavorful. The garlic-bread was non-descript, but the real downfall of the meal was the meatballs, which were curiously absent. I will assume that this was an oversight on this occasion, and not that they serve a dish called “spaghetti and meatballs” which contains no meatballs. Overall the food was good, though the portions were small. I’ll give them a try another time and see if the lack of meatballs was a fluke. 😀
I stuck around at my table after finishing my meal to type up this review. It makes for a nice space to work in, though I can see it getting distracting if it gets crowded. The web site advertises Buster Keaton movies shown daily, and indeed, when I eventually turned around I realized I’d been sitting with my back to a large wall-mounted TV the whole time. 😀
Overall, a nice space serving good food in small portions. I rate it four stars out of five, with a chance for 4.5 if the meatballs are good. 😀 Check it out if you’re looking for a casual, inexpensive Italian dining experience, or if you’re watching your weight and want some help with portion control. 😉
(Update, 4/2/2009: Today I returned to GuGu’s and ordered the spaghetti and meatballs once again. This time they arrived as promised, three flavorful medium-sized meatballs. They were quite good, and tasted like they might have had some cheese mixed in. The proprieter was also kind enough to offer me a free sample of their cheese ravioli, which I also enjoyed. Fresh, moist pasta and rich, flavorful cheese in a marinara sauce. So 4.5 stars it is. Next time, I’ll try the pizza, and now that I’ve had a sample of the cheese, I’m curious about the meat ravioli, so that will probably be on the agenda for the next visit.)