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Partisans’ Terracotta-Clad Gusto 501 Was Worth the Wait


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.

Gusto 501 restaurant, some of the 2,500 terracotta bricks are embedded with LEDs

The black steel and walnut staircase is a functional sculpture connecting all four levels of Gusto 501. Some of the 2,500 terracotta bricks are embedded with LEDs, affecting the feel of al fresco dining.

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.

View from the second floor of Gusto 501 restaurant in Toronto

Guests sitting in the second bar area enjoy a view from above.

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.

cocktail bar overlooking the main dining space, visible are the terracotta bricks

Three storeys up, a second cocktail bar overlooking the main dining space keeps the rooftop patio and Attico (a third-floor dining space with is own kitchen) in high spirits.

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 501’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.

Steel staircase

Obscured by the steel staircase and screen, the Attico makes for an intimate dining experience.

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.

Exterior view of Gusto 501 restaurant with fully operable massive recessed windows.

Weathering steel responds to the aged brick on the neighbouring building, while the massive recessed windows are fully operable.

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



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