I had one of those too-rare meals that left me smiling and deeply satisfied at Trattoria Toscana the other night. It's an unprepossessing little storefront, with Brickmaster left over from Buteco, an amateurish orange sponge paint job, bare tables and paper napkins. But oh, the food!
Excellent Tuscan bread to start; we doubt they make it on the premises, but would like to know who does make it, as it was mighty authentic in texture and flavor. An antipasto that could not be simpler: a couple of slices each of mortadella, sopresata, salami, prosciutto; a perfectly dressed little pile of bitter greens; and three outstanding bruschette, grilled and oiled Tuscan bread slices topped with garlickly sauteed spinach, wonderful chopped fresh tomatoes, and sauteed sliced mushrooms in a brown gravy. Simple, and perfect.
Ribollita was a gorgeous example of frugal Tuscan comfort food, a glutinous, earthy vegetable soup (almost stew-like with its thickening of bread) with lots of cabbage and cannellini, a bit more carrot than most versions I've had. I want more of this when the weather turns cooler.
Two pastas, both amazing. A tagliatelle with Tuscan ragu of ground beef and pork sausage, perfectly al dente, with the obviously fresh, fennely sausage jumping out of the creamy sauce. The penne a modo mio featured a garlic-heavy tomato sauce with a startling walnut/pignoli pesto, just gorgeous. I'd probably sauce this dish a little more lightly than the chef, but that's a quibble; I could eat this sauce by itself. Generous but not gross portion sizes.
Very friendly service, a tag-team operation by what looks like a family. A lot of neighborhood patrons that the staff seems to treat like friends. A good short wine list with attractive prices: I found a superb Rosso di Montalcino (a less refined sibling of Brunello) for $32. With that, our feast came to $70 pre-tip.
Once again, I'm going to end up steering a bunch of my friends to a largely undiscovered gem. They'll wonder how I keep finding these places. And I'll have Chowhound to thank. It's not simply knowing that a new place exists -- I have my own means of building my list of new and forthcoming restaurants -- but getting good intelligence that bounces it to the top of my must-try-soon list. I'll be back here in a hurry, with reinforcements.