Cafe Zuzu is a multi-faceted social hub located in Regent Park that serves a variety of coffee, house-made Italian pastries, and all-day breakfast and lunch options.
Aware that many residents have been priced out from a neighbourhood they've lived and raised families in with the multiple phases of revitalization the area has undergone in the past five years, members of the Gusto 54 team spent six months liaising with community groups in Regent Park prior to opening.
This gave the team feedback on how residents spend their free time and an idea of what would be a useful space for the community.
Tyler Rutherford, director of operations and culture with Gusto 54, tells blogTO that Cafe Zuzu has big shoes to fill since they were moving into the now-shuttered Paintbox Bistro space.
Paintbox Bistro was pivotal in helping residents of Regent Park when it came to food insecurity and employment barriers.
Cafe Zuzu hopes to cultivate a similar relationship with the community through their Gusto Gives Back program.
The cafe proves to be a cozy space for remote workers, students and those looking for a common meeting space. Future Studio is behind the interior design that's a nostalgic nod to Italy in the 1950s.
Besides antique wallpaper, there are several chandeliers and light fixtures that are more than 50 years old.
Plants hang from long rafter-like light fixtures that are suspended above white oak tables. There are chairs upholstered with groovy fabrics that have been upcycled from the furniture that was left from the previous space.
On the left side of the cafe is a large patio. Here, you'll find several Muskoka chairs that have heating technology built into the base and arms that'll keep you warm even when it's -10 degrees Celsius.
Back inside, there's a shelf of pantry goods that includes pasta, tomato sauces, coffee beans and Zuzu merchandise.
On the left side of the room, there's an ordering counter with an elaborate display of pizzas and pastries, which can be enjoyed with their freshly brewed coffee.
I decided to give the Cold Brew ($2.10 to $2.95) a try. It uses a medium roast of Rufino coffee to make this not-too-strong-tasting brew that still maintains an aromatic taste of coffee.
There's cream and sugar on a table near the ordering counter that lets you tailor your drink to your taste.
For those wanting something less caffeinated, the Oat Matcha Latte ($5.50) is a good option. A ceremonial grade of matcha imported directly from Japan is used inside this nitro-brewed drink that's blended with oat milk.
It's a foamy, creamy texture to the drink which is smooth-tasting with slightly bitter notes.
The food at Cafe Zuzu is more than just coffee and pastries which makes it easy to spend the day here.
Try the Tacchino ($13) breakfast sandwich which is basically a BLT made with smoked turkey, horseradish aioli and topped with sprouts on a cornetti (Italian croissant).
The Italian croissant is like a buttery cushion with cold-cut meat stacked inside of it. The sandwich stays intact even when you bite into it.
A blend of wild mushrooms, garlic, and truffle cream sauce are baked onto housemade focaccia bread that's seasoned with thyme, rosemary and butter.
Salty Pecorino cheese tops earthy truffle-seasoned wild mushroom topping the crispy-edged pizza that's both indulgent and delicious.
Sweeter choices at Cafe Zuzu include the Maritozzi ($5), a sweet bun that's traditionally served as a quick on-the-go breakfast in Italy.
A fluffy brioche bun is filled with sweet whipped cream and garnished with powdered icing sugar. You might expect a rush of sugar biting into this, but it's not heavy and instead tastes like sweetened air.
The Raspberry Cream Cornetti ($5.75) has a core of whipping cream flavoured with raspberry compote that spans through the pastry.
Raspberry juice is used to dye the red strips on the surface of the flaky pastry. The combination is tangy and delightful.
The entrance to Cafe Zuzu faces a row of condos and is tucked into the corner of Dundas Street East and Sackville Street.