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Restaurants

Gusto 101

Posted by Ryan Spencer / Reviewed on February 24, 2012 / review policy

Gusto 101Gusto 101 is the latest Italian eatery to open its doors in and around King West, located on Portland just south of Adelaide. As the name implies, the restaurant gets back to basics with simple country dishes that highlight their quality ingredients.

It's almost hard to believe that this space was recently a mechanic's garage — the redesign is gorgeous! Even with vaulted ceilings, an open concept kitchen and a packed house, the acoustics were not an issue, as our party was easily able to catch up without yelling over one another. The lighting fosters a sense of intimacy with pools of light partitioning tables from one another. Perfect for dates and parties of four, it's best to come early if you don't want to wait. They're not taking reservations at present.

Gusto 101The wine list has an extensive collection of Italian wines, but tonight we're interested in the house label, Vini di Gusto, we've heard so much about. Unfortunately for us, they're completely sold out, and at a loonie an ounce I can understand why. The latest batch, which is fermented in their basement cellar, needed about two days more. So we opted for a cocktail: the bourbon-based, Lambretta ($12). Surprisingly, it had a hint of chili that pulled out the woodiness of the Bourbon without any lingering heat. The other cocktail, the name of which escapes me, fell a bit flat with a diluted weak lemon pucker.

Gusto 101The house made Focaccia and Ciabatta bread was amazing. I've never seen leavening in Focaccia like that. Both were light and airy with a wonderful caramelized crust. Our server even gave us a sample of their small batch EVOO to dip it in. Needless to say, we appreciated the offer. This was some of the best service I've ever experienced in Toronto — it's attentive without being intruding and jovial but not forced.

I love squid ink pasta, which is becoming increasingly uncommon at local restaurants. So I jumped at the chance and order the Tagliolini al Nero ($14.95) even over my other favorite, a grilled Branzino with a citrus emulsion ($21.95). I convinced a friend to order the latter dish in hopes of stealing a bite.

Gusto 101 TorontoA black briny pasta is a Machiavellian affair that causes some to grimace. But I thought it was delicious, especially with the tender cuttlefish, a slightly sweeter tasting squid. It was a huge portion that was too rich for me to finish. The Branzino, meanwhile, was moist and pared nicely with the bright citrus sauce, and the inclusion of perfectly seasoned sunchokes is a nice touch.

Gusto 101The Polpette Pizza, with sliced meatballs and smoked provolone, was a crowd favorite. The crust was of a chewier variety than the Neapolitan style that's taken the city by storm, and thus a nice change. The meatballs were spot on and the hint of smoke from the cheese balanced the garlicky sauce.

Gusto 101I suppose our eyes were hungrier than our stomachs when we noticed the adjacent table's dessert. We ordered the quatro sampler: tiramsu, chocolate creme with salted caramel, an iced Lemoncello frizzante, and house made biscotti. All were a new twist on old favourites, and most were hits. There was one miss, though. The rock salt in the caramel was enough to overpower the entire dessert including the dark chocolate. Still, dessert was the most adventurous part of a menu that tends to adhere to classic standards.

Gusto 101Gusto 101 has been the recipient of much buzz, but I suspect it has the legs to become a fixture of the Toronto's Italian dining scene. There's a few kinks to be ironed out but that's to be expected with any restaurant in its first couple of months. With lunch service starting up shortly, there will be more ample opportunity to snag a table, which is good news for the diners of this city.

Gusto 101Photos by Peter Henderson

Discussion

36 Comments

A LICKY BOOM BOOM DOWN / February 24, 2012 at 10:20 am
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Looks rustic. YUM!
Oil&Water / February 24, 2012 at 11:44 am
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Should mix well with the 905ers going to Devils Martini next door.
MrPotato / February 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm
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This place used to be a hole in the ground...literally. 905ers going to devils martini...hahahaha...good one Oil&Water. Never heard that one before!
wo replying to a comment from MrPotato / February 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm
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I don't think Oil&Water was trying to be original.
Simply stating the fact that Devils is choked to the brim of those buffoons.

Le Chateau Hommes shirts for all!
mucho gusto / February 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm
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great space, great atmosphere, great food, but dont go because it will make it harder for me to get a table
TJ / February 24, 2012 at 12:57 pm
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I don't see how 905ers are any less annoying than most 416ers...just my opinion, though.
TJ replying to a comment from TJ / February 24, 2012 at 12:59 pm
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More annoying, I meant.
milo replying to a comment from TJ / February 24, 2012 at 01:07 pm
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they're more annoying because they're suburban trash and because they only come into the city on special occasions they need to over do it everytime.

TJ / February 24, 2012 at 01:13 pm
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Suburban trash...well I hate to break it to you, but you are the reason why people live in the suburbs in the first place. They can only handle 416ers in small doses.
bootsy / February 24, 2012 at 01:39 pm
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more annoying than anything are you trash talkers ruining what could be a tantalizing discussion about italian food. IS NOTHING SACRED ANYMORE??! +39 for life!
RD / February 24, 2012 at 02:21 pm
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I went around 5:00PM one day when they were just opening their doors to make a reservation in person. They said they don't take reservations (da fuck?) and wouldn't for any special occasion under any circumstance.

IMO, the customer service was shit before I even got a chance to look at the menu. Plenty of other places to pay for overpriced "Italian" food in the city.
ik / February 24, 2012 at 02:38 pm
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Think about the used prophylactics that will be strewn across their property from the dead beats at Devils who take their prize out to bang in that alley way.
Moi / February 24, 2012 at 02:53 pm
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WOW love the look of this place. Rustic. Food looks awesome....I hope they are 'different' in attitude (as one person wrote here)....otherwise GOOD JOB Ryan Spencer!!!!
Jordan replying to a comment from RD / February 24, 2012 at 03:13 pm
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Lots of places don't take reservations - why take a risk on a party not showing up, when you pretty much know your guaranteed to be full otherwise. That's not bad customer service, it's common sense.







Mike / February 24, 2012 at 04:02 pm
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Can't wait to try this spot! Great photos.

And it's unfortunate about the no-reservations policy but I don't see that as a customer service slight, but a business decision. If the owners want to roll the dice that people will wait in line, so be it. Wait, or not. You can always call Terroni and make reservations... oh wait.
p / February 24, 2012 at 05:10 pm
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In what way is pasta "machiavellian"?
jibbly replying to a comment from p / February 24, 2012 at 05:23 pm
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In the "Jesus how can I ever describe pasta in an original light?" way, of course.

Living on Portland I can tell you that Gusto is VERY busy every night it's open. Those of you who take to hating on 905'ers (or any other non-downtown area code for that matter) can pick out a spot on their rooftop patio come springtime and hurl your foul opinions from a physically and metaphorical high-and-mighty position.
raymes / February 26, 2012 at 03:33 pm
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def trying gusto out 101.
f / February 26, 2012 at 04:52 pm
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905-shore
kevin / February 26, 2012 at 09:49 pm
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The place looks awesome!! staff are very friendly and helpful. Can't wait to try it
Ben / February 28, 2012 at 10:19 am
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Really awesome to see this place come together. I used to live just south of King on Portland, and it seemed for a while that the site had stagnated. I suspect it might have had something to do with environmental issues associated with the former use. As has been mentioned above, this place was literally a hole in the ground for an extended period of time.

The spot looks great. Sad I moved from the area long ago.
chandrapal singh / March 2, 2012 at 12:08 am
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i like to bar
Hillary / March 3, 2012 at 02:54 pm
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I have plans to check this place out shortly. The food looks good enough to remind me of my nonna's peasant meals. So tired of pretentious Italian stuff.

Anyway, aren't most 416-ers just a bunch of former 905/705/807ers?
Hillary replying to a comment from Hillary / March 3, 2012 at 03:03 pm
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...and Jamaicans?
Norman / March 9, 2012 at 08:44 pm
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Octopus starter was dry and overlooked, service was a bit inept, main was average. Nice looking room, lots of loud buzz, in danger of succumbing to its own charms.
moe replying to a comment from kevin / March 10, 2012 at 06:07 pm
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bragging before trying, thanks.
Bart / May 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm
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Went. Mediocre at best. Foofy + overpriced. Desserts were like a single bite for several bucks. Save your money and go to Naples.
SK / June 10, 2012 at 03:15 pm
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I would not go back again - had brunch from a very selective menu. Overpriced and small portions, had something that was compared to Eggs Benedict (as described by the waitress) came with half a plate of mixed greens, two eggs on small pieces of bread with bits of prosciutto (like bacon bits) was surprised it did not come with any potatoes. An order of toast was $3.95. We all left hungry.
danielle replying to a comment from Hillary / June 13, 2012 at 03:15 pm
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Exactly.
agentsmith / June 14, 2012 at 11:26 am
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Actually giving a single shit about whether someone lives in the 416 or 905 or even 519 is pretty much the height of pretentious douchebaggery.
King replying to a comment from jibbly / August 17, 2012 at 05:12 pm
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Well played jibbly. Couldn't have said it better myself.
Lolanda Saputo / March 8, 2013 at 08:07 pm
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Went tonight - it was ambient, we were seated upstairs and the food was good. Service was friendly and attentive, our food was well portioned and more importantly delicious. We had between the 3 of us - calabrese pizza, the roasted chicken and the sea bass and each dish was very good. We left satisfied and enjoyed the house white. Didn't pay attention the the crowd but no one seemed unimpressed - so, as downtowners
Lolanda Saputo / March 8, 2013 at 08:08 pm
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Went tonight - it was ambient, we were seated upstairs and the food was good. Service was friendly and attentive, our food was well portioned and more importantly delicious. We had between the 3 of us - calabrese pizza, the roasted chicken and the sea bass and each dish was very good. We left satisfied and enjoyed the house white. Didn't pay attention the the crowd but no one seemed unimpressed - so, as downtowners I have no complaints about anyone from the 905 at gusto. Isn't whining about 905ers so 2001?
sixfoursevener / April 5, 2013 at 02:12 pm
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Yeah right on lolanda!! Who cares where your from as long as your not a tool. Went there last night and had a fantstic meal a bit over prized but delicious. Oh and if I may say so its these so called hipsters that are the new yuppies just an organic version.
Riiii / June 21, 2013 at 12:28 am
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Gusto 101 is awful. It's cafeteria food. The wine on tap is cheap but you get what you pay for. The service is mediocre. The best thing about Gusto is the old garage door that opens onto the patio. I will never spend a dime there again.
no / October 22, 2013 at 05:14 am
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I went there the first week it opened and never went back. Why? I saw pretty people lining up outside on the weekends as though it were Whisky Saigon in the 90s. Why can't restaurants be restaurants and not clubs? I want to EAT and talk to my friends--not shout and look around to see who's looking at me. Ugh.

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