Gusto 101 Serves Southern-Italian Dishes with a Twist in a Converted Auto Body Shop in Toronto

Toronto has a dynamic culinary scene with a sheer diversity of restaurants with so many different flavors.

Since the competition is fierce in this city, a restaurant has to stand out to make a name for itself, especially when it serves the popular cuisine of Italian.

Gusto 101 in downtown Toronto at the Portland and Adelaide intersection, does just that.

We visited Gusto 101 a few years ago, a southern-Italian restaurant known for its traditional cuisine paired with a bold and modern twist. Even the name Gusto, which means tasty in Italian, is a tribute to the restaurant's roots to Italy.

With an industrial vibe, the restaurant is located in a former auto body shop and has a rooftop deck, Gusto 101 has a tech-forward kitchen to match its innovative front-of-house interior.

“[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 Elio Zennoni, executive chef at Gusto 101 in the video below.

But it’s what the chefs prepare in the high-tech kitchen that is the real triumph.

Some of the most popular dishes include ravioli alla norma, rigatoni bolognese, branzino grilled paired with escarole, cannellini beans, celery, salmoriglio and the Tuscan wood-fired grill with grilled chicken and seasonally changing sides.

Watch the Table 42 Vignette episode below to see Chef Zennoni work his culinary mastery and prepare the signature Tuscan Wood Fired Grill Pollo with grilled chicken, butternut squash puree, farro pickled radicchio, and toasted hazelnuts dish.

Gusto 101’s Chef Zennoni Menu Offers Something For Everyone

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!