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788 King St. W.
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Gusto 101 Restaurant is a moderately priced casual Italian restaurant located by King St W and Bathurst St in the King West area of Downtown Toronto.
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Review: Mucho Gusto

By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on July 05, 2012
When a design team like Munge Leung is hired to breathe new life into an old auto body shop, you just know it's going to be a hotbed for hipsters. And the King West locale of Gusto 101 is just that, a swank two-storey showcase of world-class industrial design, each filament,...
When a design team like Munge Leung is hired to breathe new life into an old auto body shop, you just know it's going to be a hotbed for hipsters. And the King West locale of Gusto 101 is just that, a swank two-storey showcase of world-class industrial design, each filament, finial and fabric so exacting, it becomes a magnet for glitterati.

Like Terroni, Gusto 101 offers up reasonably-priced, rustic Italian fare framed by an appealing ambiance. Which explains why it has a very Thursday-night looking crowd on a Tuesday. But if you are going to name a restaurant Gusto, meaning "tasty" in Italian, it had better be. And with the wildly successful Trattoria Nervosa in Yorkville, owner Janet Zuccarini should be pretty darn confident she can deliver on that front. With executive chef Daniel Mezzolo, former chef de cuisine at Hockley Valley Resort, putting out a mostly Southern Italian menu, and the novelty of serving red and white wine on tap (at the stupidly low price of $1 per ounce), how can it fail. With all the bases covered, great things are expected.

Famished, we begin with a lightly breaded calamari ($8.50) cooked to a perfect tenderness. Beautifully presented in a bowl on a gorgeous slab of wood with an artful display of jalapeу±o and cucumber giardiniera and roasted garlic aioli, this is a hands-down winner. Even a classic tartar ($11.50/$14.50) loses its traditionalist leanings, its silky concoction of roughly hewn cubes of raw beef mingling with fresh figs, arugula, truffle oil and a regal ricotta cream that elevates this dish to a level of stature all its own. Equally impressive is a simple steak salad ($15.95). Why is it so difficult to do a salad as right as this: slices of a la minute, perfectly grilled flank with a slightly charred crust partnered a peppery, grassy pile of arugula, roasted grape tomatoes, sliced avocado and shaved pecorino tossed in a zesty creamy balsamic vinaigrette. This, and a glass of wine, makes for the perfect al fresco meal.

So far so great. And the wows just keep comin'. I mean, really, a hamburger ($14.95) at an Italian restaurant? Not sure I've even seen that before. But then rarely have I seen such a great start slip into the depths of mediocrity so quickly. A bowl of spaghetti, with generous amounts of seafood ($15.95) with the thickness of udon noodles arrive a bit undercooked. But that's the least of this dish's problems. Mushy shrimp, an overly salty prosciutto broth mixed with already briny manila clams means you'll be gulping gallons of water well into the night.

It doesn't get more Italian than meatballs. But it is unusual to see them as an ingredient on a pizza ($14.95). Intriguing indeed nestled in smoked provolone with a nicely chewy crust. But the ground meat is dry and chalky and the tomato sauce flat lines on flavour. The pressed-brick Moroccan-spiced chicken ($18.95) boasts an incredibly crispy skin complemented by nicely crispy fingerling potatoes and seasoned wilted spinach, but no avoiding that the bird is tough and dry. Then the real disaster hits with an eggplant parmigiana ($13.95) sitting in an oil spill as large as the Exxon Valdez, its thick, uncooked edges collapsing into the centre. Despite the simplest of ingredients that also include tomato sauce and smoked mozzarella, and a stray strand of hair melted into the cheese. Don't just take our word for it; minutes later another table sends it back.

How could something with so much promise revert to something so ordinary? Desserts are mixed too: a rosebud cinnamon bun ($3.95) is set apart from a Cinnabon with the addition of an eyedropper-full of rose liqueur stabbed into its side. While a s'mores crу¨me brulee ($3.95) served way too cold to register any flavour is an unappetizing finish to a teeter totter of a meal. Really, who wants a dessert that looks like liver parfait sealed with duck fat; I don't care that it's homemade and only $3.95.

But believe it or not the evening was far from a total write-off. And all it took was a splendid waiter named Seneca who puts his heart and soul into server satisfaction. He even did a toothpick run in the middle of his slammed section. I'd come back just for the honour of having him be my server, and of course, that great steak salad.
Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
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8 Comments for Gusto 101 Restaurant

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Angela Meharg Profile Picture
By Angela Meharg

Angela Meharg made a comment about Gusto 101 Restaurant

The transformation from a disused auto-body shop to Gusto is nothing short of miraculous. Haven't seen the new patio yet, but loved the interior. And the meatball pizza is MY FAVOURITE. My ambition is to order something different when I go, but I always return to the meatball pizza! And you can't beat $1/oz wine, especially when it tastes that good :)
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Rida Abboud Profile Picture
By Rida Abboud

Rida Abboud made a comment about Gusto 101 Restaurant

Huh? I feel like the restaurant you are talking about is not the Gusto I have been to NUMEROUS times over the last 8 months. What keeps me going back? The delish food, the super cute and efficient service, the great ambiance, and the reasonable prices. Yup, maybe they are working through some kinks after having opened their two patios for the first time this last month or so (I learned that after having a great conversation with the very approachable owner). This kind of information is necessary to provide a balanced review. To all of you who read this and maybe thinking twice about going to Gusto - I promise it's only been great times for me. Sorry to the reviewer for hitting it on an off night.
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Angela Lawrence Profile Picture
By Angela Lawrence

Angela Lawrence made a comment about Gusto 101 Restaurant

I think the reason that Gusto is so busy is because it is good. I've been there many, many times since it opened and have had some excellent dining experiences. I was there on Friday for lunch with a friend who had never been before. She loved her grilled chicken salad and they were happy to accommodate me by adding a piece of grilled chicken to my kale salad, which was divine. I love the decor and ambiance, but agree it can get pretty loud inside. So lately I've been taking advantage of the roof patio for a more chill dining experience. I've had truly great service at Gusto and, in fact, I think it's what has people coming back. But I also recognize that there are growing pains that every new restaurant (most half as busy as Gusto), go through so this review doesn't hold much water for me. I will continue to recommend Gusto to everyone I know because it offers the full package: tasty affordable food, great environs, and you just can't beat the wine on tap!
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By Todd Keeley

Todd Keeley made a comment about Gusto 101 Restaurant

Gusto is Gusto! I live between NYC, Bogota, Sao Paulo and Toronto right now and I go to a lot of restaurants - trust me, this is a great place! I have been to Gusto about 6 times since it opened and I have had excellent experiences each time! The servers are friendly, knowledgable and attentive. I love the food - from the pizza's to the kale salad. I have had the fish, branzio, and a few pastas with friends too and all were very delicious. I highly recommend this place - one of my favourites in TO! The dessert platter was melt in your mouth fantastic and I love the perfectly done coffees/espressos that Izzy creates with such great care. This place is busy - it's very cool, so, you need to expect a wait. Be strategic and go early or plan for a 10pm reso is my advice. Mucho Exito Gusto and all the staff! Todd :)
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Tsering C Tanzin Profile Picture
By Tsering C Tanzi...

Tsering C Tanzin made a comment about Gusto 101 Restaurant

I love this place! Have been coming here ever since it opened. Wine on Tap...Yes Please!
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Graham Coats Profile Picture
By Graham Coats

Graham Coats made a comment about Gusto 101 Restaurant

Went here for lunch with a couple work colleagues on a Friday (made sure to make a reso). Since they only do them at 12, 12 it was. I loved the rooftop patio concept, and would have opted to eat up there, but at 40 degrees, we passed. Our server was very nice however service was killer slow. As mentioned, we did make a reso, and by 12:30 the place was slammed. Their menus are literally printed from an at-home printer and put onto a clipboard. Sorta neat, but their wine menu is far beyond their food menu. They take orders on iPod's (due to their contract with UrbanSpoon systems?) Our server was pretty nice, but didn't wow me at all. to the food; I split on the meatball pizza as an app (you betcha!) and while it tasted OK, it was undercooked. The dough was well, doughy (perhaps on purpose?) and the sauce was.. well, there was a lot of it. I ordered the Rigatoni Lucani and it was fantastic. I would honestly come back just to order that again. The place (due to it's size) does get very loud, and you have to worry about constant people pumping into you (our server actually stepped on my toes three times moving out of the way for other servers to get around her). It's definitively a casual joint to see and be seen. Take it in as one of Toronto's newest hotspots because I'm not too sure how long this one will last.
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By Nadine Feldman

Nadine Feldman made a comment about Gusto 101 Restaurant

We had the total opposite experience of what I've read here. The service was a bit slow, but the place was packed, so that was understandable. Our server was friendly and fun and happy to help us. I asked a million questions and she never lost her patience. My salmon was cooked to perfection, the salad was fresh and delicious and the desserts were nothing short of jaw dropping. Looking forward to coming back to try some other dishes. We completely enjoyed our experience ~ visually and gastronomically.
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