GUSTO101: Decent Italian 101

416 504 9669   |   $12-$15 Pizza and Pasta  

 

I’ll be the first one to admit I’m wary of ‘trendy’ new Italian restaurants in King West. As the area gets more and more saturated with restaurants, I get increasingly skeptical. A friend of mine said she’d enjoyed her last visit, so I brought of bunch of friends to check it out on a Friday night.


Photo Credit: Toronto Life

Food

The menu features everything you expect to see: fritti, insalate, antipasti, pasta, pizza, a few mains, and contorni. The variety is solid and the prices are surprisingly reasonable across the board which is refreshing given the area. 

We started with smoked eggplant and prosciutto on three large crostini (above). I don’t know if it was the campfire scent coming from the nearby pizza oven, but there was smokiness here and the simplicity of it was appealing and delicious.

Next was the calamari (above), which is always a good test. Definite pass with really tender, lightly battered rings. The roasted garlic aioli on the right tasted great too.

What I really didn’t understand was the pickled cucumber and jalapeno salad in the middle along with the balsamic reduction. The presentation was confusing since I was eating the calamari ‘chips-and-dip’ style, so I had to cut up the salad and use a fork to combine it all…at which point the flavours just didn’t make sense to me.

Another ‘gotta try’ item was the arancini (above). I order them every time I see them because I’m always in search of perfection. Even when they come up short, it’s hard to make them taste bad. To me, it’s gotta be thin and crispy on the outside filled with a 1/3 melted cheese, 2/3 risotto mix.  

These had a thin outer layer, but no crispiness. The inside wasn’t cheesy enough, although the mushroom and fontina risotto had good flavour to compensate.

For the mains, the table had two pizzas. The first was their classic prosciutto (above). For those of you who like crispier/floury crusts, this will be to your liking. I was also fond of the tomato sauce.

The other pizza was the Da Dee with thin slices of sweet potato topped with spanish onions, lots of crispy kale, and some cow milk mozzarella. It was pretty tasty, but I felt like the bitterness of all the kale wasn’t quite balanced with enough salt or cheese. 

We finished off with two pastas: a mushroom fettuccine and rigatoni with lamb shank. I thought the fettuccine was passed al dente, but what it didn’t lack was earthiness. It’s packed with portobello, oyster mushrooms, porcini AND truffle paste. That plate needed a green or something because that was intense.

The rigatoni was well-received around the table and the lamb was tender and not particularly gamy. 

One last thing, the dessert menu is pretty limited and there’s no beer on tap (only a few bottles available). The wine menu is quite extensive though and there’s even wine on tap. I had a cabernet sauvignon-malbec blend that was simple and fruity; it’s pretty good value too at only $1/oz.

Service and Ambience

From an interior design perspective, I really liked the grunge/loft feel. My guess is it used be a garage (there’s a big garage door at the front). Much of that ‘bricks and mortar’ style remains, and all the sunlight that seeps through from the front really lights up the place on a nice day. There’s a patio out front too, but it doesn’t yet have a liquor license if a drink in the sun is what you’re in the mood for.

On a busy Friday night, the staff managed to hold a table for six of us by turning two tables sideways. The improv was smart and worked for us. Our server was also knowledgeable about the menu and called all the women at the table ‘senorita’ (most of them enjoyed this). 

The Reco?

Toronto has yet another casual but authentic Italian restaurant that you’ll probably enjoy. Nothing on the menu wowed, but it all tasted reasonably good and the service along with the ambience charmed me. Couple all that with the fact the prices are reasonable and the location is central, and it’s a decent choice downtown.

Other reviews:
 blogTO  |    Foodies Inc.

 Posted by: Jacob, Visited May 4, 2012

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