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Ode to Tuscany Market & Vineyard

sweet100s Jan 19, 2007 06:06 PM

Returned from a trip incredibly bummed to see that my favorite pizza place has closed.

The list was long of things I didn't like about Tuscany Market and Vineyard.

However, they made 2 things that more than made up for how they ruined their atmosphere when they remodeled, for how their hours were unpredictable, for the Italian word misspellings on their menu.

1) Cuban Panini sandwich

Made with citrus-garlic marinated roast pork, smoked ham, swiss, dijon on ciabatta, pickles, plus the whole real pressed Panini thing going on. Maybe the most delicious and most unique sandwich I've ever had.

2) their Tuscany "Margherita"

I've been to Italy ~ 12 times for work, and have never had a pizza slice there that was better than Tuscany Market's. (caveat - I've never been to Naples) Until I had theirs, I thought simple pizzas were a yawn. Their ingredients included the classic fresh tomato, fresh basil, and roasted garlic, but their dough and pulling it at just the right moment was what made it exceptional. I asked the Cook what flour he used, and he said high-gluten flour. It definitely had a great flavor that I can't quite describe.

I never ventured much beyond these 2 things on their menu, except for discovering an excellent red wine (Hahn Meritage, which I have since also found at Specs.)

When I first discovered Tuscany Mkt, it was such a special place. It had several pods focused on completely different things. Kind of like a much much smaller scale version of the Marche Movenpick in Toronto. Part felt like a cozy coffee / dessert shop, part felt like a Panini bar where you line up for sandwiches, part was like a take-out deli, and part was that brick oven pizza area. The atmosphere was cozy, and they had free WiFi and really comfy chairs. Great place to spend a couple hours alone, inside or out.

THEN they remodeled. Eliminated the pods, all ordering and checkout from 1 place, put a big bar area in the middle. Totally messed up the atmosphere.

My guess is that their traffic flow couldn't sustain the labor cost of needing people to staff each pod. Their location was off Riata Trace parkway, near Duval & 183. It was hidden but easy to get to. Maybe it was the "hidden" part that did them in. You would never accidentally drive past them unless you live in Riata Trace. I heard about them from something I received in the mail.

So it's Friday and I'm craving that sandwich or that pizza. Anyone know of similar elsewhere?

HEY maybe they are just moving to a better location.

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  1. s
    singlemalt Jan 20, 2007 03:49 PM

    If they have closed I think it very sad. I used to love to go out there and do there wine sampling thing when they had the machine dispenser. I thougt some of their pizza was delicious, whether or not it is "real" pizza, I liked it. There seemed to always be a croud and it was pleasand tasting wine and comparing notes to strangers who happened to be there at the same time. I,too, feel like the remodling took some of the atmonsphere away and the few times I returned it was just dead. Perhpaps location, poor market or other economics resulted in their closing, if indeed they are closed. It's too bad. At one time it was neat thing.

    1. MPH Jan 20, 2007 09:49 PM

      I can't contribute to an ode for a place that may or may not have permanently closed, since I've never heard of Tuscany Market.

      In the spirit of helping you find good chow in the present, however, here are some links to a few threads on the best pizza, panini, and Italian markets in town:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/310934

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/93321

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/310139

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/334867

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/93261

      There are many more discussions, if you wanted to do a search for the best Cuban panino, for example. You mention the chain Marche Movenpick in your description of Tuscany Market, but they don’t have an outpost in the area.

      If you find something you like, I hope you'll report back on it.

      Best,
      MPH

      1. sweet100s Jan 21, 2007 07:25 PM

        OK this is torture! Every place I wanted to try from reading those links is closed on Sundays!

        Thanks much MPH. After reading your contributions, I wish you could have tried their "Tuscany Margherita" to see what you thought about it. I am 85% sure you would have really liked it. I think it met most of your criteria, except their mozzarella cheese was grated not sliced.

        I actually just got a pizza docker to try to reproduce their pizza. (their pizza cook used one)

        singlemalt >> If they have closed I think it very sad. I used to love to go out there and do there wine sampling thing when they had the machine dispenser.

        Agreed. I thought that machine with the tubes going into 30 or so different bottles of wine was total fun and a slick mechanical trick. (It sounds odd but they had it embedded into the wall of a wine-cellar-ish room in a very attractive way.) I bought one of those cards. Something about putting the card in the top and getting a sample size dispensed in front of the bottle was a kick.

        singlemalt >> if indeed they are closed. It's too bad.

        I think they are gone. Their phone is disconnected; their website no longer loads.
        (There is a "wayback" machine website ?eliza? where you can look at websites from 6 months ago but I don't remember the link.)

        Instead of remodeling I wish the owner had taken that $, bought one of those drive-through-only hamburger places, and just sold a subset of their sandwich and pizza menu out the window. That would be low overhead and headaches.

        Part of my software work a while back was software for restaurants. After watching the data flow in major chains for several years, it's easy to see how precarious achieving profit can be.

        That massive pizza oven is going to be one heck of a writeoff.

        MPH >> If you find something you like, I hope you'll report back on it.

        Will do.

        1. sweet100s Jan 22, 2007 11:08 AM

          MPH

          this is a pizza you would like...

          http://i116.photobucket.com/albums/o23/sweet100s/Venice/Venicepizza.jpg

          from a weekend in Venice away from work.

          http://s116.photobucket.com/albums/o2...

          Most pizza I had in Italy actually wasn't that great. When I was out walking around on my own, I purchased it mostly from the tiny store vendors when short on time, as my focus was on seeing things vs eating during the daylight. The pizza places I tripped across weren't good at all. When with clients, it wasn't what you ordered for a business dinner at a really nice Italian restaurant.

          However, that weekend in Venice I tried to seek out good pizza, and found it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sweet100s
            MPH Jan 22, 2007 09:50 PM

            The picture of the Caprese pizza is mouthwatering.

            It can be very hard to find good pizza, especially in the north of Italy. The very best is made in Naples and Campania, the surrounding region. In fact, the Neapolitans think that Rome is too far north to find a good pie! (Of course, they’ve never had to eat some of the junk served around here.)

            Let me know if you find a pizza in town that you like as much as the one from the now-defunct Tuscany Market.

            Best,
            MPH

          2. v
            verily Jan 31, 2007 09:41 AM

            Whoa! They closed?!? That's a darn shame. It was just down the road from my workplace and made for a convenient lunch location with coworkers. The Cuban probably was their best item on the menu. The pizza was decent, nicely thin and crispy. I liked getting the mushroom mix with prosciutto.

            Guess I'll have to start hitting up Bear Rock now for lunch breaks. Or stick to my new love: Curry in Hurry.

            1. sweet100s Jan 31, 2007 10:34 PM

              Yep. I am still in such a snit over their closing.

              Update for MPH:

              Saccones Margherita pizza doesn't come close. *And* it cost $19 !!
              I enjoyed a pepperoni there eons ago though.

              Did try one other from a take-out-and-bake-at-home pizza place on 620 in the little shopping center adjacent to the big HEB. The owner said they fly in their cheese from Wisconsin, make their own tomato sauce, use live yeast in making their dough, etc. It was a good pie and the sauce had a peppery zing to it. But it couldn't become what Tuscany Market's Margherita was. Apples & oranges. However, their frozen ravioli to go was excellent.,

              3 Replies
              1. re: sweet100s
                MPH Feb 1, 2007 04:13 PM

                Thanks for the update, sweet100s. I agree with you about Saccone’s margherita.

                What's the name of the place on 620? And where is it exactly? I might give their frozen ravioli a try.

                Best,
                MPH

                1. re: MPH
                  sweet100s Feb 16, 2007 09:47 AM

                  Hi MPH, it's called "Buddy and Al's". If you were driving from I-35 north, exit 620 and go WEST (left). You'll pass the big HEB with the creatively-designed parking lot where you can park almost anywhere and not get wet when it rains.

                  Right as you get towards the end of the HEB, you'll see a tiny strip mall near the road. Buddy & Al's is one of the first stores you'll notice.

                  Their ravioli was very simple but good. Just a really good cheese taste, pasta taste and a bit of a zing in their tomato sauce. Reminds me of some I had in a small place on the North End of Boston.

                  1. re: sweet100s
                    MPH Feb 17, 2007 01:27 PM

                    Thanks for the info, sweet100s. I'll check out Buddy and Al's ravioli next time I'm in the area.

                    I used to love eating in Boston's North End, too.

                    Best,
                    MPH

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