There’s always a buzzing crowd when I walk by Gusto 101 (@Gusto101TO) which has deterred me from dropping in for the longest time. After a meal here, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.
Gusto 101, located on Portland (just off of King), is owned by Janet Zuccarini who also owns Trattoria Nervosa in Yorkville. Trattoria Nervosa is also incredibly popular, so Janet seems to know what she’s doing.
The space is perfect for summer dining as they have a patio out front and a beautiful rooftop patio.
Gusto 101 is primarily a walk-in restaurant but they set aside some seating for online reservations for their first seatings (lunch at 12pm and dinner at 6pm). You can make a reservation for groups up to 13 guests and the reservations are held for 15 minutes. My friends and I dropped by without a reservation at 6pm on a Monday and had no problem getting a table on the patio.
So, if you don’t want to wait, I recommend dining early. Mike and I tried to drop by around 8pm on a Thursday evening and was told it would be a 2+ hour wait. Needless to say, we didn’t wait.
The restaurant has a large menu of Italian favourites – pastas, pizzas, several salads, antipasti, grilled items and daily specials for each day of the week.
Oh, and let’s not forget one of the restaurant’s biggest draws – wine on tap for $1 per ounce! I loved the fact that you can get it in any increment. I decided on the white wine and enjoyed it. At $1 an ounce, you can bet I’ll be back here often.
To start, I ordered the Cavolo Nero – lacinate kale, zante currants, toasted pine nuts, pecorino & lemon vinaigrette ($13.95). After ordering this, I was told by the server that this is one of their most popular dishes and I could see why. I loved the combination of all the flavours – a little sweetness from the currants, a little nuttiness from the pine nuts and a bit of citrus from the mild lemon vinaigrette. Rounded out with some shaved pecorino cheese, this was a great way to start off the meal and a must-order for kale fans.
For my entrée, I ordered the Fettuccine ai Funghi – Portobello, porcini, oyster mushrooms, truffle paste, light cream sauce ($17.50), another one of their most popular dishes according to our server. The portion of this was quite substantial and the leftovers made for a delicious lunch the next day.
The fettuccine noodles were cooked to a perfect al dente and the rich sauce had a wonderful deep and earthy mushroom flavour to it. I absolutely loved it!
Several of my friends at the table ordered the Ricotta e Spinaci Ravioli – ricotta cheese, spinach, parmigiano, white wine, tomato sauce ($16.50). I tried a bite of it and really enjoyed it. The vegetarian filling was light and seasoned nicely and the generous tomato sauce was equally tasty. My only complaint would be that the pasta itself was a tad bit hard in texture but nevertheless, it was still a great dish.
Another one of my friends ordered the Branzino alla Griglia – Mediterranean sea bass, fregola, escarole, spicy tomato jam, citrus emulsion ($27.95). This beautiful dish tasted every bit as delicious as it looked. The sea bass was incredibly moist and had a nice crispy skin. I also enjoyed the pairing of the fish with the well-cooked fregola (similar to an Israeli couscous). If you’re not a big pasta fan, this dish is a great alternative.
To end off the meal, we decided to share the Dolci Platter ($15.50) aka the dessert platter. It’s probably best to share this platter amongst two people as we had some trouble splitting the small bites between the five of us.
The first item on the left was the Budino al Cioccolato which was topped with caramel whisky and whipped cream. It was a smooth chocolate mousse and was easily the best of the platter. Next up was the Caffee Freddo al Gianduia which was a very light coffee mousse with hazelnuts. I wasn’t a huge fan of it since it was a little too light…as if I was just eating foam.
The next component was the Aria di Agrumi which consisted of citrus air and pop rocks. It was interesting to say the least and you’d either love it or hate it. It was also a little foamy so I wasn’t a big fan of it. One of my friends at the table really enjoyed it though. To each, their own!
The fourth component was a Chocolate Macaron which was pretty standard. Nothing special. The last dessert on the far right was the Tortino di Formaggio which was a solid cheesecake with rhubarb, strawberry jam and graham cracker crumbs. It was good but nothing memorable. Needless to say, Gusto’s desserts were a little disappointing after the fantastic entrees we had just beforehand.
Despite the disappointing dessert, we still had a great time at Gusto 101. With two great patios, delicious food and wine on tap for $1 per ounce, what’s not to love?
At a glance:
• Serving up Italian fare
• Must orders: the kale salad and mushroom fettuccine
• The dessert platter was a little disappointing but we still enjoyed our experience overall
• Mostly a walk-in restaurant but they set aside some seating for reservations (first seating only)
• Wine on tap at $1 per ounce which can be ordered in any increment
• Located on Portland, just off of King
• 2 patios including a rooftop patio
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4 stars
• Service: 3 stars
• Atmosphere: 4 stars