TOSCANA TAPS INTO YOUR INNER ITALIAN
We had heard about Toscana long before we arrived there, for it is preceded by its reputation. Sandwiched in between the Cheesecake Factory on one side, Hamburger Hamlet across the street, and several other busy establishments on San Vicente, three blocks off Wilshire in Brentwood, Toscana is one of those cherished small places with an open kitchen manned by five chefs. Its very size engenders a propinquity to your neighbors that can be positive, but a noise factor that, for my dining pleasure, is a big negative. We arrived at 6:30pm on a Sunday, and every table was occupied. The noise factor was, truly, deafening. My earplugs, unfortunately, did not work, as the sound of mastication reverberated in my ears painfully.
Noise aside, the food is truly wonderful. The menu is exceedingly large, with 16 Antipasti, 18 different Pastas and Risottos, eight Pizzas, and 13 Meat and Fish entrees. The many desserts sit on a table and hit your eye immediately as you enter, beckoning to you to try one or all of them before you leave.
Fran selected the Insalata Carciofi: sliced baby artichokes under five slices of parmesan cheese, topped with lemon and olive oil. We learned that the baby artichokes were served raw and were not the marinated variety that she had expected. An unusual dish and not totally satisfying to the palate. My prosciutto with melon was very fresh, very delicious, and earned two thumbs up. The dish is priced at $18, but was most generous; two could do very nicely by sharing this plate.
Their Zuppa di Verdure or minestrone soup is first-rate. Many different freshly cut vegetables are brought together in this light broth. Do add the Parmesan cheese for an exquisite taste. We also sampled the Pizza Funghi, and the mushrooms were quite delicious atop the thin-crusted pie.
For her entrée, Fran chose the Grilled Branzino, a fish that now makes the rounds in many restaurants in Los Angeles. The fish was tender and had a perfectly seasoned crust. My Veal Milanese was huge; pounded into a flat expanse covering most of the plate. It, too, earned plaudits for taste and flavor. The fresh spinach alongside the veal was excellent. Toscana’s Spaghetti Bolognese would rank as high as that of Il Pastaio, another authentic Italian restaurant we visited recently. Rich, flavorful, and like few others found anywhere in our fair city.
On to dessert. It’s time to try one or all 10, and you, too, will wear that smile for which Toscana has become so famous. Incidentally, we did see Rob Reiner and a Larry David look-alike, spoke to our neighbors—a power attorney and his feminist, activist wife—who come there regularly, and just generally, had a wonderful time.
Remember: know that the noise is constant and at decibels beyond belief! And, as usual, do tell ‘em Giuseppe sent you!
Toscana, 11633 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood, 90049
Monday through Saturday: Lunch 11:30-3:00 p.m.; Dinner 5:30-11:00 p.m.; Sunday: Dinner 5:00-10:00 p.m.;
Approximately $80 for two w/o alcohol