After 18 months of construction, Gusto 501 was only open for a few months before the pandemic forced it to close its doors. But with the lockdown lifting, the towering restaurant is coming back to life
Flour, water, salt, eggs: restaurateur Janet Zuccarini has always seen the potential in things, be they pizzas, pastas or buildings. With Gusto 101, she transformed a mechanic’s garage into a buzzy Italian spot that enlivened a then-derelict stretch of Portland Street. Now, with humble building materials – steel, terracotta, glass and wood – Zuccarini is transforming Corktown.
Despite the name, Gusto 501 is not an East End reincarnation of its West End counterpart. “This is about progressing and pushing boundaries,” says Zuccarini, who gave architecture studio Partisans carte blanche for the project. Boszko & Verity Inc. built it.
From the street, immense glass sheets framed by three storeys of weathering steel beckon passersby to gaze inside at the equally dramatic interior. A floating blackened steel and walnut staircase winding its way from the first floor to the rooftop dominates the voluminous space, which is bookended by walls clad in 6,500 terracotta bricks. Cut to create a rippling effect and embedded with LEDs, they produce an effect like dining al fresco beneath a starry sky – an atmosphere enhanced by the all-glass ceiling and facade. In warmer weather, the latter, which is one of the largest operable facades in the world, opens to complete the vibe.
The 205-seat restaurant serves brunch, lunch, small plates and dinner across multiple dining areas. On the ground floor, black granite wraps around the open kitchen, while on the mezzanine, Gusto’s wine collection – featuring nearly 500 bottles – provides a more intimate backdrop. Higher still are the Attico (a floating dining room with its own kitchen) and the cocktail bar opposite it, which have some of the best seats for voyeurs. Further up, the staircase opens onto the aerie, a rooftop patio with an unobstructed view of the skyline.
Chef Elio Zannoni’s menu has a few carry-overs from Gusto 101, such as the famed kale salad, but most of the plates are new, including plant-based creations like the chlorophyll-dyed mushroom risotto. Mains like a roasted lamb neck are faultless, but it’s Gusto’s appetizers and sides that sing. A mussel and chickpea polenta plate swimming in a tangy tomato sauce spiked with smoked paprika is delectable.
Eighteen months in the making, Gusto 501 is manifold, with several menus and five different dining rooms, yet the restaurant never seems disjointed. What ties it all together is Zuccarini’s – and Partisans’ – commitment to taking humble ingredients and elevating them to dizzying heights, be they freshly extruded pastas or terracotta bricks. GUSTO501.COM; PARTISANS.COM; BOSZKOANDVERITY.COM