Video Produced by Vanessa C. Rodriguez
Toronto is arguably one of Canada’s top foodie cities. Having 10 Torontonian restaurants listed in our Top 25 list alone, it’s not hard to believe why restaurateurs place such importance on not only its food, but architecture and restaurant experience as a whole, to stay ahead in the competitive market.
That is the case for: Gusto 101— a five-year-old restaurant located in the heart of downtown Toronto, which serves up modern takes on Southern Italian cuisine. The casual eatery was born inside a repurposed garage, featuring concrete, metals and an overall industrial look to the space.
“The Gusto design... Janet has quite the eye for that... it did win international design awards…,” said Gusto 101’s Executive Chef, Elio Zennoni, who was referring to Janet Zuccarini, Gusto 101’s owner, and the Hospitality Design Award the restaurant and Munge Leung interior design firm won back in 2013 in the casual restaurant category.
The space also features a retractable glass roof for the rooftop dining area that was allows Gusto 101 to provide a patio experience to its guests year round, especially during the fall and winter months.
To complement the innovative restaurant design, Gusto 101 is equipped with a tech forward kitchen which Chef Zennoni, who has been cooking for over 20 years now, notes it is something that appealed to him from the beginning.
“[This is] probably one of the most high-tech kitchens I’ve ever worked in. We have a full-induction burners, combi oven, so on and so forth…It’s at the top of the level of, as far as, the future of kitchens, and the future of restaurant design...,” says Zennoni.
Chef Zennoni, who was first introduced to international cuisine through shows like Wok with Yan and Pasquale’s Kitchen Express, likes to keep the Gusto 101 menu light, fresh and accessible. The menu features creative salads, pasta (which they prepare in-house), flatbread pizza, grilled detailed dishes and sweet desserts. Their goal is to provide plenty of options, something for everyone who visits.
In this Table 42 Vignette, Chef Zennoni demonstrates for us Gusto 101’s signature dish: a Tuscan Wood Fired Grill Pollo with grilled chicken, butternut squash puree, farro pickled radicchio, toasted hazelnuts.
He begins by first preparing a butternut squash puree with shallots, nutmeg and cream butter. After, he sautés some farro with pickled radicchio. The dish also carries toasted hazelnuts which are rolled on a flat surface to break off its dark brown skin and later are tossed in olive oil.
The chicken breast is lathered in olive oil and brine made out of salt, clove, garlic and fresh herbs. Then it is grilled and later sliced on a bias, or roughly 45 degree angle, “to fold it in on itself just so it looks like a chicken sitting in it’s own nest.”
After plating the beautifully prepared dish, Chef Zennoni adds the last touch --- a dash of Maldon sea salt flakes.
Watch the episode to learn more!