Gussy’s Bagels and Deli brings homemade bagels to Oakland

Gussy%E2%80%99s+Bagels+%26+Deli+on+Fifth+Ave.+offers+a+variety+of+homemade+sandwiches+and+bagels%2C+from+pumpernickel+to+cinnamon+raisin.+

Alyssa Carnevali | Staff Photographer

Gussy’s Bagels & Deli on Fifth Ave. offers a variety of homemade sandwiches and bagels, from pumpernickel to cinnamon raisin.

By Ebonee Rice-Nguyen, For The Pitt News

With bright orange walls and 75-year-old Italian ovens right inside the store, owner Scott Walton said Gussy’s Bagels and Deli aims to make customers feel right at home.

Gussy’s is located at 3606 Fifth Ave., between Atwood Street and Meyran Avenue, and offers a variety of homemade bagels and sandwiches for customers to choose from. Gussy’s specializes in bagels, but also offers sandwiches and breakfast options for less than $20. Customers can choose to have their bagel topped with lox or served with a sweet or savory flavored “schmear” spread.

Walton bought the building for Gussy’s Bagels and Deli on July 1 and spent the summer turning it into his vision. The shop officially opened at the end of September.

Before the bagel shop, Walton was a well-known figure in the fine dining scene. He served as the executive sous-chef of Magnum’s Prime Steakhouse in Lombard, Illinois, and the executive chef at Stoney Point Grill in Moneka, Illinois. Walton opened Markethouse — a restaurant that used to be located in Chicago — in 2009, where he worked as the executive chef. Walton eventually made his way to Pittsburgh, where he opened Acorn, a modern American restaurant located in Shadyside, in 2017.

However, Acorn’s fine dining didn’t transfer easily to takeout during the COVID-19 pandemic, and at the same time, Walton didn’t want to compromise his craft. 

“Our food there didn’t travel, it has all kinds of finishes,” Walton said. “It was never going to be a good representation of how we cooked, doing to-go food. Nor did I want to do chicken sandwiches or burgers.”

Walton came up with bagels as a solution to keep Acorn afloat. He said they were perfect for pandemic takeout and always in high demand. While Acorn originally sold a single batch of about 40 to 50 bagels per weekend at the start of the pandemic, it quickly grew to 1,600 bagels.

While the bagels were a success, Walton said he was still missing something in his happiness — his family.

As a chef in fine dining, Walton said he barely had the time to see his two young daughters. Along with many Americans, Walton said the COVID-19 pandemic made him realize the importance of those closest to him.

“The pandemic was good for me. It gave me a different perspective of life and outside of work life. I’ve worked 12 to 15 hours every day of my life. I got a couple of little girls. I realized for me over the past five years I don’t know them,” Walton said. “The pandemic gave me a new view on what could be a healthy work relationship. That’s all I wanna do is spend time with them.”

With new insight gained, and a new trade, Walton left his 25 years of fine dining experience behind him and split with his partners at Acorn. Walton said while he may not be in the fine dining scene anymore, he takes the same philosophy from his previous restaurants to the bagels he serves at Gussy’s.

“Making a perfect bagel is no different than seven courses, when you see it come out of the oven and all the steps it’s gone through,” Walton said. “There’s the three-day fermenting process, the rolling before, the rolling after. It’s still labor with love.”

Walton said he prefers to take a personal approach to the baking process. With a 75-year-old Italian oven and a 55-year-old mixer, he said Gussy’s bagels have a genuine feeling. 

“It’s all about giving them something real, and fair and of value that they can enjoy. It’s all about the experience,” Walton said. “I don’t care if it’s fine dining or anything. You’re still trying to create an experience for someone.”

Anna Bagwell, a sophomore environmental science major, felt the difference that Gussy’s brings. Bagwell said the family feel of the restaurant is comforting to customers. 

“There’s two little girls, the owner’s daughters, giving people their orders, that’s a big difference,” Bagwell said. “It’s like a family.”

While places such as Einstein Bros. Bagels and Starbucks offer competition for his bagels, Walton isn’t concerned. Walton said he and his staff believe their personal approach to the baking process sets them apart. Customers can watch as workers prepare their food from fresh ingredients.

“People will find us if they want a real bagel. You see the bagels coming out of the ovens all morning,” Walton said. “There’s nothing hidden behind the scenes. There’s no frozen [food], that’s what’s unique.”

It’s not just the bagels that make Gussy’s different. Gussy’s takes the same approach to their staff as they do to their food. A lot of the workers are college students from the area. Amy Job, a senior chemistry and neuroscience major, said she has been with Gussy’s since its opening and has seen firsthand the deli’s close-knit community. 

“I think we found a really solid group of people working there,” Job said. “It feels like a family.”

Walton said he takes the same pride in his food as he does in his staff, and in turn, his staff cares about the food.

“I’m really fortunate. I have a very solid staff, everyone cares so much about serving great food,” Walton said. “They’re proud of what they do and what they serve and it comes through. You taste it.

This distinctive perspective in the kitchen seems to be attracting customers. Since opening, Walton has had to purchase more equipment each week to keep up with the growing demand. 

Job, who has been there for eight weeks, witnessed the growing demand firsthand. She said she watched the deli transition from making 40 bagels in a daily batch to 200 bagels.

As demand grows, Walton has high hopes for Gussy’s. Walton sees Gussy’s expanding into several delis located around Oakland, hopefully becoming an essential part of campus. 

“That’s what we wanna be. I wanna be that place, if your parents are coming into town, you gotta take them to Gussy’s and grab a bagel. That’s what I want to establish,” Walton said. “I want it to be part of people’s lives.”

Walton said it’s all about the people and the experience he creates for them. He is trying to build something that customers can’t get anywhere else. 

“If the bagel has any soul, then we did our jobs,” Walton said.

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