Everyone has that one restaurant back in their hometown they’re eager to visit when they’ve been away for a while. Most people don’t happen to also own that same resto. “I usually give love to my latest project, which is Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen right now, because I need to stay close to the newest one to see how it’s doing. I’m going from the airport, to Chubby’s,” says Janet Zuccarini, who runs Gusto 54 Restaurant Group (Gusto 101, Kiin and Pai) and splits her time between L.A. and Toronto. “The jerk wings are my favourite, and we have this insane ice cream sundae that I’m obsessed with.”

When you’re thinking about food as much as Zuccarini, who is also a judge on Top Chef Canada, we figured she must have a few Toronto dining recs. So we asked. Here are some of her fave spots in the city.

Brunch: Maha’s Egyptian Brunch (226 Greenwood Ave.)

“They produce incredibly tasty food and they’re so unique in their offering. I don’t know another Egyptian brunch spot that is ever spoken about anywhere in my travels, but it feels like Maha’s Egyptian is on everybody’s list because they’re really delivering quality. I’ve eaten it all [on their menu], I love it all. The only problem is it’s impossible to get in.”


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Italian: Buca

“Rob Gentile is our best Italian chef in Toronto, so I got to all of the Bucas—on King Street, in Yorkville, Bar Buca—wherever he’s cooking. He’s a master at Italian food and is super passionate about it. He really sticks to the rules, it’s very, very classic Italian cooking, which I really appreciate.”


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Greek: Mamakas Taverna (80 Ossington Ave.)

“The vibe is fun, the food is tasty and it’s an easy choice—if I’m with a group of friends, I’m going to Mamakas all the time. I love the whole grilled fish and their kabobs. And I know the owner, so that makes it feel like a special experience for me.”


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Indian: Pukka (778 St. Clair Ave. W.)  

“I like what [they’re doing]. It’s not traditional, but it still feels authentic. I spent a lot of time travelling in India, so I feel that my palette is pretty tuned to Indian flavours. And they capture authentic Indian flavours, except they’re giving it a modern twist.”


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Diner: Harry’s Charbroil (160 Springhurst Ave.)

“They serve up a great burger and it’s such a cool, hipster diner. They took a diner that was there forever and still kept elements of the original, so it feels like well-worn shoes in a way, but they’ve also made it relevant.”


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Japanese: Shoushin (3328 Yonge St.)

“They’re really on point with delivering high-end omakase in a non-typical location.”


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Café: Quantum Coffee (460 King St. W.)

“My father brought the first espresso machine into Canada. The coffee business was my business; it’s in my genes, so I’m always checking out cafés. Quantum is my favourite, from their coffee, their cappuccinos, their lattes. They’re just doing a great job.”


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Bar: Bar Raval (505 College St.)

“Come on, it’s the sexiest bar in the city, design-wise. [Architecture and design firm] Partisans did Bar Raval, and I hired them for one of my projects because of it. Standing in that bar, I’ve never seen a design that feels so cool and beautiful, and their cocktail program is outstanding.”


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