Located in Downtown L.A.’s Green Street Building (aka “weed-works”) Gusto Green is a new plant-forward restaurant by culinary pros Janet Zuccarini (Felix Trattoria) and chef Michael Magliano (The French Laundry, Jon & Vinny’s, Animal, and Soho House New York).
Not just a place for kale salads, Gusto Green is breaking new ground as the sole eatery in America using hemp from Ziese Farms, the only federally approved purveyor of hemp leaf for food. While marijuana and hemp are both derivatives of cannabis sativa, they are very different herbs. Hemp plants do not produce the psychoactive compound THC (what gets you high), but do produce around 100 other cannabinoids with beneficial uses.
View this post on Instagram
Entrepreneur Zuccarini, CEO of Gusto 54 Restaurant Group, describes the concept as, “a warm, friendly, and also forward-thinking restaurant destination that embraces the future of food and how people are seeking to eat today.” The space, designed by award-winning, Los Angeles–based Studio UNLTD, has soaring atrium-style ceilings, expansive marble-topped bar, private dining room, open kitchen, and 10-seat chef’s table with views of the wood-fired, Italian-imported pizza oven.
Magliano uses a scientific approach to hemp, and now that it’s legal, the sky is the limit for its sustainable use in the kitchen. “Prior to now, we were only able to use the seeds and hemp oil,” says Magliano. The forward-thinking chef has been using hemp flower and seed since his early days of cooking and was ahead of his time, going to plant-based culinary school over 20 years ago. “I was 25 pounds heavier and having health issues before switching to a primarily plant-based diet,” he says.
Hailed as one of the most nutritious plants on the planet, hemp is highly regenerative, reparative, restorative, and rich in potassium and omega-3s. Along with being sustainable, hemp leaf is poised for superfood status. “There are plant-based and vegan places but no one is pushing what I’m trying to do,” says Magliano. “And it makes perfect sense for us to be bringing this concept to the forefront of the hospitality industry.”
The restaurant’s signature whole hemp leaf is lightly dusted and fried with gluten-free chickpea batter that pairs nicely with a crisp sauvignon blanc, and could easily replace potato chips as a bar snack. There is even a specially designed serving plate for this dish made locally by Eagle Rock’s People’s Pottery Project, which helps formerly incarcerated people from the LGBTQ community develop skill sets.
View this post on Instagram
The rest of the menu is comprised of 80% plant-based dishes, and 20% humanely procured fish, poultry, and meats—which can be paired with biodynamic and natural wines, cocktails, zero-proof cocktails, house-made kombucha, and adaptogenic teas. Soon, the chef will be adding a hemp version of pea shoots with sesame, steamed with sake, white tamari, ginger, and garlic. And the culinary team is working on a powdered-hemp matcha tea as a ceremonial signature, along with spices using the ingredient as a base in za’atar, togarashi, and allspice.
The venue will also hold private events on the roof for brand activations in the industry, and the seventh-floor art gallery penthouse will be used for educational dinners exploring the intersection of cannabis and culinary. “We believe you can eat well, even indulgently, and still feel great about what you’re enjoying,” Magliano says.