Alan Stanford visits Toscana Restaurant
3 Cork Hill, Dame Street, Dublin 2. Phone 670 9785
City Life, Irish Independent, March, 2003.
Toscana is on Dame Street so don’t be confused by the address. It is well designed, well laid out, warm and inviting and offers Italian cuisine at reasonable prices. Being Italian, and Daniel, my eldest, being one who has always been inclined towards Italian food, we went together for our usual debate about politics and Tolkien.
We were welcomed like friends and offered a table in smoking and the menu. Daniel, being expert in that field took the wine list. There was nothing hugely impressive, but a good mix of Italian and new world and almost all at reasonable prices.
On the menu, starters ran from €2.50 for garlic bread up to €9.50. There was the usual list of pasta dishes at an average price of €12. There were dishes for the main course of chicken, meat and fish all in the usual Italian-style and priced at an average of €18.00 and there were, of course, pizzas.
The room has a simple, yet stylish decor in terracotta, cream and wood with black chairs and tables, which I must admit, were comfortable if just a little small.
Daniel, who has remarkably set habits for one so young, opted for the suppli to start – golden croquette of mozzarella and rice with a garlic dip.
Cannelloni was his choice for a main dish. For myself, a Caesar salad to start and the filetto di manzo to follow – 80z medallions of fillet beef with pepper sauce. All main dishes come with a choice of salad, french fries or baked potato. We both went for the salad.
To drink, Daniel selected the Barolo, a 1997. For some reason, Barolo is always relatively expensive for the wine you get. It’s a big wine, or should be, but this was neither quite big enough nor satisfying enough for the price – €38.50
The waiters were incredibly efficient and extremely friendly.The Caesar salad, though good enough, was not as sharp to the palate as it might have been. As to the suppli, it was, according to Daniel, fairly good and there was certainly a generous portion.
After further debate on the futility of socialism and his detennination to pursue it actively, we moved on to the far more interesting topic of Tolkien. He didn’t just write those movies you know! I doubt if any writers other than Shakespeare, Dickens and Becket, cause more debate and discussion than Tolkien. But then, I suppose that everyone needs a fantasy world now and again and Middle Earth is better than most.
The main dishes were served with great aplomb by our charming waiter. The cannelloni made itself known by its aroma even before it made it to the table. Daniel positively salivated at the smell. It looked good enough to be homemade and it tasted even better. Certainly, it was well filled with a good sauce, which was properly seasoned and firm pasta.
All in all, deeply satisfying comfort food, which is what it should be. The beef was very tender and very tasty. It came dressed in a pepper sauce. Generally, as you know, I am not one for sauces on good beef, but this proved to be a perfect accompaniment to the meat. Not too thick, not too thin, not too peppery and certainly not bland, all of which so often happens.
The accompanying salads had a good mix of leaves and were as fresh and as crunchy as a good salad should be. With the food and the talk we had finished the Barolo, unsatisfied by it, and so, knowing that desserts were in the offing, we went for a second red wine.
This time a Primitivo Salento 2000 and it proved to be a very good choice indeed. Not heavy, but full of fruit and length and I could drink it all night.
I mentioned the desserts. Dolci all are priced at €4.95 and the list has some evil temptations on it. Daniel, without any shame or hesitation, took the chocolate fudge cake. I thought I might be a little more circumspect but gave way, after a serious struggle of more than 15 seconds, and took the Trufito, this being dairy chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce and chocolate amaretto biscuit. Let’s face it; there was a lot of chocolate on the table. Both desserts proved to excellent and rich and very filling! We rounded off with coffee.
Daniel took a mocha which, the waiter insisted, he had personally made and, if let, would probably have added that he had milked the cow as well as roasting the beans, both cocoa and coffee! My espresso was strong and rich in flavour, another rarity.
Our meal for two with two bottles of wine came to €112.10, excluding service, which was reasonable enough nowadays.
The food was wholesome and Italian in all the best ways. The service was delightful and the room a very pleasant place to eat and sit and talk. Just what an Italian restaurant should be.