This started out as a review of Trattoria Toscana, but I think I'm touching on a larger topic -- to what degree is our perception of a restaurant -- food, service, ambiance -- colored by how we feel about the company we're with?
A case in point is last night's dinner. It's 5pm on a Saturday night. A lovely but lunch-less afternoon at the Isabella Stuart Gardner museum is followed by a sun-setting, pink-tinged walk through the Fens. Toscana has just opened. The waiter and part owner shows us to a window seat and points out the sights along the Via Condotti (Jersey St.). Everything in the place is so damn jolly. Everyone seems to be smiling. The decor is actually pretty plain, but the warmth of the staff intercedes. The person I'm with is beautiful and smart and funny.
Look. There is no way this meal will not go well, there is such great karmic momentum. I'll rave about the fresh funghi porcini risotto -- a rare (it's almost always made with dried porcini) savory pudding with little taste explosions of the mushrooms) throughout -- comfort food on steroids, perfectly done (though the presentation is plain, it will remind you of eating at grandma's).
The mozzarella di bufala app with olives and tomatoes is the perfect start. But am I really tasting this creamy delight without prejudice when I feed her a sun dried tomato with olive oil dripping down my fingers?
The other dish we shared was the cod with pasta. It had a lovely and delicate infusion of the sea combined with just a pinch of red sauce, the hint of tomatoes brightening the dish. We toast to life, and I see my affection for the food reflected in the deep pools of her soft brown eyes.
On the other hand, what if I'd gone to dinner with a professional colleague? Would we have pushed our reviewers' hats firmly onto our heads and been smart and critical, pointing out flaws real or imagined (wasn't the risotto just a bit salty?) which I missed with my more intoxicating companion?
In the event, we were at Tratoria Toscanna for over 3 hours. Night settled in. The place filled up. Tables turned. We lost track of the time. Too many stories, too much laughter, too lovely a night. The staff never pressured us to move along, rather they indulgently filled our glasses and smiled at us.
It's sometimes hard to know when love of the moment compromises an objective review of a plate of linguine.
130 Jersey St, Boston, MA 02215