Gusto 101, the latest shiny new thing to appear in the perpetually-in-construction King West neighbourhood, opened its doors last Friday. Built out of a dilapidated old auto garage, Gusto 101 is still decidedly King West—and that’s exactly what owner Janet Zuccarini (Trattoria Nervosa), director of operations Jill McAbe and designer Alessandro Munge were going for. Inside, the bare cinderblock walls are outfitted with industrial-style light fixtures, and old licence plates hang on a wooden beam. The open kitchen shows off the restaurant’s centerpiece: a Tuscan-style wood-fire grill.
In the kitchen is executive chef Daniel Mezzolo, previously of Hockley Valley Resort. The dinner menu was designed mainly by Zuccarini and focuses on bold Italian flavours. There are antipasti, like char-grilled octopus ($13.49), and fritti, like arancini with wild mushrooms and fontina ($9). Of course, there’s pasta: rigatoni with braised oxtail ($13.79), ricotta gnocchi with pork sausage ($13.79) and pappardelle al funghi with portobello, oyster and porcini mushrooms and truffle paste in a light cream sauce ($14.79). The wood-fire oven is responsible for the pizzas like the polpette, with tomatoes, mozzarella, meatballs and smoked provolone ($13.79), and mains like Moroccan “brick chicken,” which is cooked sous-vide then finished on the grill and served with Swiss chard and garlic smashed potatoes ($17). Desserts come in mini-portions and include mascarpone tiramisu, dark chocolate mousse with caramel, olive oil and sea salt, and wild lemon air: aerated limoncello with fizzy candy, candied celery and a sprinkle of ground coffee ($3 each or $8.50 for a combo of all three).
On the drink menu: cocktails, a robust selection of Italian wines and Vini di Gusto, Gusto’s own wine, which is on tap for a buck an ounce. The wine is made in the restaurant’s own winery (located in the basement), where stainless steel vats of malbec and sauvignon blanc are hooked up to the taps upstairs. The operation is a branch of Vintage One, an urban winery based in the Junction.
Starting February 20, Gusto 101 will serve lunch, and brunch will follow in March. Come April, the restaurant’s huge 90-seat rooftop patio will open for dining or drinks, along with a streetside patio facing Portland.
Gusto 101, 101 Portland St., 416-504-9669, gusto101.com