Consistency is key, and I think the people over at Gusto 54 Restaurant Group must have clued into that a long time ago. They’re the restaurant group that owns neighbourhood staples, like Trattoria Nervosa (which just celebrated its 20th–yes 20th!–anniversary), Gusto 101, Pai Northern Thai Kitchen, Felix in Los Angeles, and soon to be opened Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen and Gusto 501. I can’t tell you how excited I am that another Gusto location will be opening up in my hood at 501 King St. E.!
While I’ve seen many restaurants come and go in the King West, Toronto neighbourhood, Gusto 101 (located at 101 Portland St.) has been around since 2012 and is still going strong. Their formula for success seems to be serving up consistently good Southern Italian food with a modern spin. Their food is straight-forward and unpretentious. For example, unlike another popular Italian restaurant chain that shall remain nameless, Gusto 101 won’t refuse to bring you balsamic vinegar to mix with the olive oil for your bread because their olive oil is from the best olives in Italy (blah, blah, blah)! I’ve eaten at Gusto several times over the last few years, and I can tell you that it’s the place to go if you’re looking for a solid pizza or pasta. And how cool is it that the restaurant is inside of a re-purposed garage, and has an enclosed rooftop patio with a shabby chic, industrial vibe?!
In keeping with the industrial theme, the menu comes on metal clipboards. With some slight variation, the menu is, for the most part, comprised of many of the same items as at Trattoria Nervosa.
We started with the Campari Spritz ($13.99), which wasn’t our favourite cocktail as we found it to be too bitter. We did, however, enjoy the glasses of Mionetto Prosecco ($11.99) that we opted for after drinking a few sips of the Campari Spritz.
We got the Beef Carpaccio ($14.99) and the Cavolo Caesar ($14.99) as our appies.
The Cavolo Nero ($14.99) is usually my go-to salad at Gusto 101 and Trattoria Nervosa. But this time, at my fiancé’s insistence, we gave the Cavolo Caesar a try. I’m glad I listened to him because I loved the different flavours and textures going on this dish from the bacon and avocado!
It was truffle on truffle in the carpaccio from the truffled cannellini beans and truffle emulsion on top (I mean, who doesn’t love truffles?!). This dish was gone in under a minute!
For our mains, we got the Salsicce pizza (tomato sauce, mozzarella, ground fennel sausage, roasted peppers, $17.50) but without the roasted peppers, and since we couldn’t decide on a pasta to share, we got two: the Bucatina Amatriciana (house made guanciale, tomato sauce, black pepper, pecorino, $16.99) and the Mafalde ai Funghi (portobello, porcini, oyster mushrooms, truffle cream sauce, $17.50).
If you’ve never had the Mafalde ai Funghi at Gusto or Trattoria Nervosa, you’re missing out on one of the best pasta dishes in all of Toronto. It’s that good (you literally can ask around). As usual, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, and we ordered much more food than we could handle (but the Mafalde plate was practically licked clean!).
Since I was in a food coma and needing my bed at this point, Alex enjoyed the Panino al Gelato (double chocolate cookie, pistachio gelato, maldon sea salt, $6.50) by himself because he always leaves room for dessert.
Overall, our date night at Gusto 101 was lovely. Incidentally, “gusto” means tasty in Italian, and that it certainly was! I should also mention that Gusto 54 caters for a very affordable price, and Gusto 101 serves brunch on weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. I had the pleasure of checking our Gusto’s brunch out with some friends a while back and not surprisingly, we went to town!