Less than stellar experience at Trattoria Toscana....but I'll probably go back anyway
Went here with my BF for a light meal after an evening at the MFA. I ordered the bruschetta al pomodoro as an appetizer, and the passato di verdure soup. BF ordered the ribollita toscana soup.
The bruschetta was poorly executed: bread had an unpleasantly bitter, charred edge but still did not seem properly toasted. The chopped tomato topping was cold and nearly flavorless, except for the bits of basil. Possibly my bad for ordering fresh tomatoes at this time of year, but then why keep it on the menu? Overall this struck me as a mediocre home cook's rendition of this basic dish.
My soup was not exactly bad, but I can't say it was good either. It was a very thick puree, thicker than I like soup to be, as in more the consistency of a sauce, and the flavor was wholly unremarkable. No complexity, nor any purity or sublime simplicity. Only an indistinct, salty/muddiness. I couldn't even detect which vegetables were in the puree, besides tomato, carrot, onion, and possibly squash.
The ribollita was a bit better, but also very thick, more like a bean and veggie stew, and overly oily. Again the dominant flavors were oil and salt (and I am not a salophobe at all!). The vegetable flavors did not stand out at all, and there was no bright acidity to counter the richness (which would have been welcome--e.g. in the form of a hit of fresh parsley or lemon juice).
Again, the dishes struck me as amateurish, and not even in a charming, rustic way. I am frankly quite shocked given all the reviews saying that everything at TT is great.
However, seeing as we ordered such a limited number of items, I would definitely go back and give it a second chance. Also on the positive side, the service was extremely friendly and efficient, and the atmosphere was quite nice in an unassuming way. I really want to like this place!!!
Has anyone had these soups and have a different opinion? What are the real stars on the menu?
I'd like to post an addendum to my original.
I stated that the ribollita was "technically correct". I meant that the soup was certainly correct in the spirit of what it should be. I will make note that there was not any cavolo nero present in the soup which for all the nitpickers out there might construe as not technically correct. A fine soup nonetheless.
I should have tried the chicken liver crostini, but one person can only order and eat so much.
I had a late lunch at Trattoria Toscana yesterday(DEC 2).
I ordered the ribollita which was brought to the table by the chef piping hot. He offered fresh ground pepper and I asked him to bring out some more oil for the soup. There was just a little drizzle of oil on mine. I thought it called for more. He brought out a little dish of extra virgin olive oil which allowed me to add enough to my liking. The soup was excellent and in my opinion quite technically correct. I had a glass of Vernaccia with the soup.
My second course was the Penne Carretteria(a sauce of plum tomatoes, garlic, pancetta and chile peppers and parmigiano). This was a delicious pasta dish, just the right amount of sauce, deeply flavored from the pancetta, I'm guessing a little bit of wine and plenty of parmigiano. It had just the right amount of heat from the chiles. The pasta was cooked perfectly and I really enjoyed this dish. I could do without the Emerilish scattering of semi-dried chopped parsley all over the place but that's just a quibble of mine. Excellent pasta dish, especially after a very long walk on a chilly and blustery day. I had a glass of chianti along with it.
I was fairly full but the waitress coaxed me into trying the Tira mi su. The whipped mascarpone was nice but the lady fingers had not been soaked enough, leaving them dry. She commented that the chef made it on a daily basis. I'm of the opinion that a trifle like that is probably better the next day. The lady fingers definitely needed more soaking.
The service was excellent and very attentive. There was only one other party there (8people) but it was after 230.
The one thing I did not appreciate was the oil/DRIED herb/ balsamic drizzle that is offered with the bread. Not sure what kind of oil it was but it seemed like a very cheap and inferior blend of sorts, not very good.
Service was excellent. I would return here to sample some of the other pasta dishes in the future. The secondi listed on the menu do not read that well at all.
The bathroom is even reminiscent of Italia!
My bill was $41 before tip.
A very nice lunch.
I liked my single visit to Trattoria Toscana but definitely agree the pastas are the strong point on the menu. My friend had just returned from Tuscany and craved some Ribolita. It was very very thick and needed *something* -- friend thought a drizzle of good olive oil would have worked. My chicken liver crostini app was good, but better for sharing (there was a ton), and definitely not as good as the real deal enjoyed IN Italia. Sort of one-dimensional. We shared a pasta, and it was delightful. Her fish was the star of the entrees (I forget what I had now, and am too lazy to go back and read my review). All that to say, I liked the place enough to want to get over there again to try more, but maybe not so much as to deal with the difficult parking in that area unless I get a real craving.
I'm a big fan of TT. The stars of the menu are the crostini (liver and/or the sausage/spinach). I always liked the char on the bread, just my opinion. Pastas are great. Carratierra has unbelievable depth of flavor (and is made painstakingly from my understanding) and the meat/cream sauces are incredible. (Admittedly, layering on these dishes in a big way can get heavy.)
I'm less familiar with the secondi selections.
The chef is Florentine trained and my experience at TT has always been a close proximation of meals in Tuscany.
Let us know how your next trip goes!!
My single experience here was good but not great either. I enjoyed a salad and thought the bruschetta was fine (this visit happened during the summer). But, my main dish which was called either "pork chops" or "pork loin" was very oily and left me feeling slightly gross afterward. My girlfriend enjoyed her pasta, but also remarked about not liking it as much as she had hoped (I don't remember what pasta it was or the specific issue, this was a while back). We're also in the camp that wants to like the place and thought the service friendly and efficient. Just were a little bit let down. We haven't gotten back yet, but probably will someday also.