ZUZU serves classic Italian-inspired dishes with a modern twist at their bright and airy space in Regent Park.
The restaurant is from the Gusto 54 Restaurant Group, the same team behind Toronto favourites like Trattoria Nervosa and Gusto 101.
ZUZU is particularly near and dear to owner and CEO Janet Zuccarini's heart. It's a loving nod to Gusto's humble beginnings and her father Giacomo, who brought the first Italian espresso machine to Canada.
The restaurant and bar are an addition to the already-existing Cafe Zuzu, which opened in the fall of 2022. The cafe is a multi-faceted social hub which serves coffee, pastries, breakfast and lunch options, and also features a co-working space and bottle shop.
Once 5 p.m. rolls around, a stunning sliding partition with inlaid stained glass opens to reveal a warm, inviting seating area filled with greenery, rustic decor, and eye-catching accents which pay homage to 1950's Italy.
From the plush, earth-toned velvet chairs and striated marble tables to the vines suspended from panelled wooden rafters reminiscent of a winery pergola, ZUZU's interior designed by Toronto's Future Studio has managed to capture the spirit of an open-air Italian cafe.
The indoor dining area has 100 seats, with an additional 60 on their outdoor patio. There is also bar seating and a semi-private dining room for larger parties of up to 10 tucked away in the far back corner.
Bathing in plenty of natural sunlight beaming in during the daytime, ZUZU quickly turns into a more romantic, intimate setting, illuminated by the soft glow from hand-made tulip lamps and candles on each table in the evening.
It was difficult to narrow down what to choose off their menu with so many eye-catching dishes, but we were recommended to start with the Brussels Caesar salad.
The Brussel Caeser ($15) features Grana Padano, pine nuts, candied pumpkin seeds, crispy shallots, and dill. It was light and refreshing, and came as a healthy portion. I loved the great balance of textures.
From their pasta selection, Pappardelle ($24) noodles are tossed in a beef and pork ragu, and sprinkled with Pecorino cheese. It was served perfectly al dente, and the star of the night.
For those who like a bit of spice, the Rigatoni ($19) has a kick and is made with a spicy vodka sauce using pomodoro sauce with cream, and Parmigiano.
As an accompaniment to the pasta, the Chicken Milanese ($24) is a large flattened chicken breast that's simple, crispy yet juicy, sided by a salad made of fennel, arugula, and celery.
Be sure to save room for dessert. ZUZU's rum-soaked Baba ($13) is a sweet and boozy treat that involves an Italian brioche, cream and Amarena cherries.
ZUZU's wine and cocktail selection includes a selection of low-intervention wines and unique libations with a twist, as well as a thoughtful mocktail menu for non-drinkers.
Many of their cocktails are citrus-leaning, designed to compliment the food offerings. The Ginevra ($19) is a gin-based creation that's made with dry vermouth, dry curacao, Lambrusco, morning glory juice and topped with a frothy vegan egg white foam.
If you lean towards bitter, the Cafe Negroni ($16) may be right up your alley. Mixing gin, vermouth, and Campari together, it's served over a huge cold brew ice cube. As the coffee ice cube melts, the espresso notes take over, softening the initial bite.
ZUZU is located at 555 Dundas Street East in Regent Park. It's open for dinner daily from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.