Toronto, ON M5A 1L9
Gusto 501 was six years in the making. Janet Zuccarini, owner and CEO of Gusto 54 restaurant group, bought the building at 501 King St. E. in Toronto’s Corktown neighbourhood in 2013. Since then, Gusto 54 has been working diligently to bring the concept of an innovative trattoria to life. '
Award-winning Toronto design firm Partisans (Bar Raval and Quetzal) completely reimagined the simple space and transformed it into a five-storey architectural marvel.
Inspired by the tradition of Zuccarini’s first restaurant Trattoria Nervosa in Yorkville, and the innovation of Gusto 101 at King and Portland, Gusto 501 is a dynamic and contemporary space serving simple Italian fare.
“The idea of really humble simple ingredients, pushed to a more innovative space is the consistent theme of the whole restaurant. With the architecture, with the cocktail program, it's all about super humble housemade ingredients pushed to a modern twist," says Juanita Dickson, president of Gusto 54 restaurant group. "We don’t want to lose sight of tradition, but we want to bring it [Gusto] into 2020 and the years to come."
The group chose to lay down roots in Corktown and offer something unique to the King East crowd with Gusto 501.
“When we opened Gusto 101 on Portland St. everyone thought we were crazy doing anything west of Spadina, that was no-man's land at the time and and now it is a bustling vibrant community of amazing restaurants. We feel 501 and Corktown will follow a similar path.” says Dickson.
Not straying too far from the Gusto 101 menu, executive chef Elio Zannoni has brought the same Italian staples to the new locale — with a few special additions. The restaurant is broken up into two concepts, the lower level trattoria, which feeds into the mezzanine and the upstairs cocktail and snack bar, they’re calling Attico.
The downstairs trattoria is all about family style dining and bringing authentic dishes to the table. "It’s really wholesome, simple ingredients. It's all about getting the freshest and best food and the experience of dining around the table together,” says Dickson.
If you've been to Gusto 101 or Trattoria Nervosa, you know about the Cavelo Nero. Don't worry, they still have the legendary kale salad on the menu at 501, but the Cavoletti di Bruxelles ($13) is hoping to give it a run for it's money.
The Polpette ($14), are a classic beef and pork meatball accompanied by fresh ricotta, pomodoro and some lightly oiled crostini. Perfect for an appetizer or an afternoon snack.
The Asiago al Forno ($15) hides caramelized onions and Spianata salumi under it's cheesy surface.
All the pizzas are made in the trattoria's wood-fire pizza oven. The Margherita ($15) here is a staple.
The Mezzi rigatoni ($22) is Zuccarini's favourite pasta on the menu. The boar bolognese is hearty and creamy.
The star of the menu has to be the Lasagna ($22). This layered masterpiece is full of homemade lamb ragu, ricotta and topped with mint.
The menu changes as you move upstairs into the third level.
“Attico is our answer to the Italian Spuntini bar. A wine and snack bar, with amazing cocktails, a great curated wine list and seasonal small plates that will change regularly,” says Dickson.
The space is centred around a chef's table that will eventually also make a great space for chef pop-ups and private events.
The restaurant will also have a brunch menu with options split up into three.
“Dolce, salato and pizzette, so it’s sweet, savoury and personal pizzas, just to keep it super simple,” says Dickson.
Come spring, they will also have a portable pizza oven on a casual rooftop patio.
The cocktail menu at Gusto 501 is their most ambitious dive into mixology yet. Making in-house syrups and spirit infusions, such as a charcoal whisky and hibiscus vodka, Gusto 501 is aiming to wow patrons.
All the cocktails here are twists on classic creations. Take the Cosmopolis ($19), which has all the makings of a New York cosmopolitan, but with a couple slight adjustments. Aperol, peach-infused vodka and gusto grenadine are injected into a sphere of ice and cracked for you table-side.
Strawberry milkshake? Think again. The spin on the New Orleans classic, the Ibisco Fizz ($17) is made with 501's hibiscus-infused Tito's vodka, orange blossom, cream, lemon and egg whites.
The Lato Est ($16) is a pre-prohibition cocktail made in the traditional style. But to make it unique to 501, they've added a specially made vintage stamp of the neighbouring Trinity Church for aesthetic.
Designed by Partisans, the space has so many different facets that really define Gusto 501. The undulating terracotta wall is one of the most extraordinary features in the space.
“Terracotta is one of the most humble italian building materials, they (Partisans) took it and did a crazy innovative twist on it,” says Dickson.
The restaurants “hyper-garage” and tessellating glass panels show they are dedicated to their mission statement of tradition meets innovation. Made up of five panels, the glass comes apart and then fold into each other, opening up the whole front of the space.
This is what the team hopes will be the answer to mimic outdoor dining. “In Europe people eat outside all the time, but we’re a little weather challenged in Canada. So it was about asking the question of, how can you bring that same feeling to this building,” says Dickson.
The rooftop pushes boundaries even further, as the glass wall makes you feel like you're dining on top of the skyline. "It has the feeling of being on a New York rooftop with the CN Tower view, which is incredible," says Dickson.
By Nicole Richie Posted On: Jan 31st