Gustazo’s Patio Pivot

by Chris Wangler

June 9, 2022

From humble beginnings, Gustazo at 240 Moody Street has evolved into one of the finest restaurants not just in Waltham but in the entire Boston area.

The Cuban restaurant’s beloved patio in Embassy Park isn’t coming back this summer, but the owners have once again adapted quickly to keep their acclaimed business moving forward.

Over the last two COVID summers, the so-called “Embassy patio” was a hit, attracting more than 38,000 guests while contributing more than $140,000 in taxes on $1.9 million in receipts.

“Probably the nicest patio on Moody Street,” said Greg Smizer, a Waltham resident and longtime patron shown dining inside recently with his partner Svetlana. “It had a fountain and music. It was gorgeously decorated.” 

Greg considered the Gustazo patio “the gateway of Moody Street” for outdoor dining visitors parking in a city lot nearby. 

Svetlana said the elegant space beautified the run-down Embassy Park, where there’s trash under all the bushes and people charging devices late at night.

“I would avoid the area,” Svetlana said. “It was dark and dirty and kind of scary.”

In the spring, Waltham officials declined to allow a third patio season for Gustazo in the city-owned park, even though the city's traffic commission voted again to shut down Moody Street. Outdoor dining was also extended by state officials until April 2023. 

Patricia and Adolfo, the ambitious Waltham owners, had to scramble for a solution, worried about losing a key revenue stream.

Frugal and self-reliant, the married couple have been resourceful problem solvers since they opened in a cramped space across from city hall in 2014. 

Gustazo drew rave reviews from diners and critics alike for its exquisite, affordable food and outstanding service―and the pair did it all with no liquor license. 

After saving up and buying a license, Adolfo and Patricia fully renovated the former Garcia Brogan’s on Moody Street. The beautifully decorated space reflected their Cuban heritage and would offer unique cocktails and rare Cuban rums.

They were primed for a grand opening when COVID shut everything down in early 2020.

City officials voted to allow outdoor dining on Moody, but Gustazo was outside the shutdown zone. To help, Mayor Jeannette McCarthy allowed the restaurant to set up in Embassy Park. 

“It’s the reason we survived,” said Patricia.

And thrived. Earlier this year, the gifted executive chef was nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award for her outstanding Cuban cuisine (unfortunately she didn’t win).

Adolfo, meanwhile, is a creative contractor who has built out all the spaces that he and Patricia designed together. 

Besides their Waltham location, they run a second Gustazo in Cambridge with more than 300 seats.

After getting the bad news this spring about the Embassy patio, the pair got permission to set up in a back parking lot shared with neighboring Brewers Tap & Table.

And once again, Adolfo quickly managed to beautify a run-down space.

Looking forward, Patricia said she hopes one day to return to Embassy Park through a leasing arrangement with the city.

File and courtesy photos