Living and working on College Street can sometimes spoil you when it comes to Italian food because there are just SO many options. I have however quickly discovered that as many options as there are, the actual quality doesn’t always measure up. It seems that as delicious as the food at some of the places here is it can also feel heavy, bulk-made and sometimes hastily prepared without much attention to the nuances of spices and flavors that bring Italian food to life.
Gusto 101 (which literally means “tasty” in Italian) opened its doors earlier this year by transforming an old auto garage into and open concept, industrial-style feast for both the eyes and the tummy. The owner has already made her mark and built her reputation off the success of her previous venture Café Nervosa in Yorkville (which I still have to try). I started hearing rumblings of this place on various different newsletters and blogs and instantly had to add it to my list of places to try. Judging that the place is always packed to the point where people are spilling outside I was excited to see if the food would live up to the hype.
The atmosphere is exactly that of what you want for the bustling King West location – loud, busy, crowded with the noise from their open kitchen battling over the conversations from small groups, dates and after work drink seekers. It’s hard to get reservations for any seating after 6ish so the trick is to get their early. When you are lucky enough to get a table you are greeted by very friendly and knowledgeable wait-staff who know the menu, know their wines and have stepped into the new age of technology by taking your order on i-Phones. Love.
On this sunny Thursday evening we found ourselves in the back corner table ready to indulge! We ordered our drinks and then promptly decided on appetizers. They have a great selection of wines and also have their own winery in their basement. House Wine for only $1 an oz – which is clearly why it was sold out on this visit of ours L You can also book out the wine cellar in their basement for private group engagements – definitely need to keep that in mind!
Fresh Ricotta Bruschette (herbs, maldon sea salt, house made focaccia) and Arancini (rice wild mushrooms, fontina and tomato sauce)
Ever since I first had Arancini at Enoteca Sociale its actually become one of my most favourite appetizers. Rice stuffed in a deep friend breaded ball? SIGN ME UP. The Gusto version was nothing less and literally made me not want to share! But they do come two in a serving so it’s perfect to split. The ricotta that came with the bruschetta was maybe the freshest, softest and fluffiest ricotta I’ve ever had, just perfect with the their focaccia and when that ran out, we used our bread basket!
On to the mains!
Spaghetti Chitarra alle Vongole (manila clams, white wine roasted tomatoes, toasted bread crumbs, pepperoncino), Ravioli di Ricotta e Spinaci (ricotta, spinach, tomato, smoked mozzarella di bufala), Fettucine ai Funghi (portobello, oyster mushroom, porcini, truffle paste, light cream) and Da Dee Pizza (sweet potatoes, cavolo nero, local fior di latte, spanish onions, pecorino, rosemary)
The spaghetti was not my cup of tea just because I’m not the biggest clam/mussels fan. Just something about the texture but it LOOKED absolutely delicious. So many textures and colors all in one plate. The Ravioli was also nothing to write home about but still a great option if you’re looking for a vegetarian dish that’s simple. My FAVOURITE pasta dish was by far the Fettuccine. First of all, we all know my love for anything with cream and mushrooms so this was already a winner before it even got to the table. It was full of flavor and each bite just melted in your mouth. It doesn’t rival the mushroom pasta from Spuntini but it’s definitely up there. The Da Dee pizza was an interesting choice. We weren’t sure how the sweet potatoes and kale would work together but they actually created a perfect blend of bitter and sweet. Not sure I’d go for it again but glad I tried it.
Looking at the menu now it looks like I’ve tried all the pastas that I would (and clearly have a favourite) but would love to try some of their pizzas. The Funghi, Prosciutto and Salisicce are all on my list. They also have some great salad options (starter and meal options) but who can go for a salad when there’s so many delicious options.
And Finally Dessert!
Being that we were 4 girls, there was really only one option – the Dessert Platter!
Dessert isn’t on their menu but from what I remember this included a caramel crème Brule, mini cinnabons, and mini chocolate cupcakes. The Crème Brule was the clear winner of them all.
So all in all the food was sort of hit and miss. You almost need to figure out what your favourite dish is and then not stray from it. I found mine but feel excited that there are still some other options to try. I’ll definitely be back seeing as Gusto 101 is so close to home, their open late Thursday-Saturday, have Brunch AND are opening their 90 seat roof top patio this summer!
Till Next time!
Address: 101 Portland Street (King and Portland)
Parking: Plenty of street parking and lots