I usually offer posts on this blog about the historic architecture of Toronto. On a few occasions, I have departed from my usual format to include eateries located among the historic buildings of the Entertainment District. Although I am not qualified to be a food critic, I know good food when I experience it, and have no difficulty recognizing superior service. In the case of “Gusto,” on Portland Street, it is great to see a restaurant employing a building from an earlier era, renovating it, and creating a trendy place where its customers can enjoy an eclectic mixture of the past and present. Gusto opened several months ago, but I tried it for the first time this week. It has already become one of the most popular restaurants in the area.
I remember when this site on Portland Street, a short distance north of Queen Street was an automotive repair shop. The door where the autos entered has been retained. It opens in warm weather to allow the indoor and outdoor spaces to integrate. It can be seen in the picture above, behind the two white umbrellas. On roof of the shop there is an outdoor dining area where diners are able to enjoy warm summer evenings. The restaurant offers Italian fare, with many pasta dishes and a variety of pizzas from a wood-fired oven.
This picture shows patio on the front of the restaurant and the garage door of the old automotive shop.
The roof patio at Gusto
Gasoline and oil cans above the bar and signs from the automotive shop decorate the interior
Please forgive me for photographing the food, but the calamari was light, crisp and cooked to perfection.
The salmon salad was excellent, and the meatball pizza was equally as good, although I found the meatballs a bit too heavy.
One of the best features of the restaurant is offering the wine at the price of $1 per ounce. It is a reasonable price, and allows each diner to order the exact amount they desire. However, I was not impressed with the restaurant reservation service. No phone reservations are allowed, and if you go online to gusto101.ca you will discover that they only offer a limited number of tables, and the remainder are on a first-come-first-served basis. This means that if you do not receive a reservation, you can waste your time going to the restaurant only to find that a table is not available. I realize that this annoying habit from New York is designed to create a “buzz,” where patrons are turned away to create an aura of desirability. It may be okay for clubs, but for restaurants I find the system simply discourteous to the customers.
However, our displeasure at the reservation system disappeared when we sat down at the table under an umbrella in the patio, and luxuriated in the pleasure of the atmosphere and the the gorgeous summer weather. The service we received from our waiter, whose name was Nikesh, was friendly and professional. He was efficient and although he never hovered, was always quick to supply our needs. In the future, he is certain to become a Bollywood star and be lost to the hospitality industry.
For a post about a gourmet street food in the Entertainment District.
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