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The little gem that is Trattoria Toscana

k
Kbee Sep 21, 2007 08:54 AM

Realized it had been awhile since I’d been to Trattoria Toscana so decided to have dinner there last night. So glad we went, the meal was fantastic. Got a half carafe of the house red, which was actually quite good. A highly drinkable chianti at a great price ($13/half carafe, I think). DC had a few glasses of various whites which I didn’t really try but he seemed to enjoy. They recently switched to their winter menu, which seemed a little out of place on what felt like a late summer evening, but that’s okay. Started with crostini with chicken liver pate. I love chicken liver pate and this was very good, although it seemed a little bolder in flavor than usual, although maybe that’s because it was warm and I usually enjoy it more towards room temp. I had fettucine with proscuitto and porcini mushrooms that was outstanding. Perfectly cooked pasta, the earthiness of the porcinis and the saltiness of the proscuitto lightly bound with a little cream. Yum! DC had rigatoni with sausage and mascarpone that was also to die for, the mascarpone added a wonderful dimension. Both dishes were rich, but not overly so. Service was excellent as well. This is something I consider just as much as the food. Nothing can ruin perfectly good food like jaded or indifferent service, which was not the case here. Service throughout the room was genuinely friendly and helpful. The only downside, which isn’t their fault, is that parking is a total PITA without a resident sticker (and no, there wasn’t a baseball game). This is someplace I need to keep on my radar…

  1. MC Slim JB Sep 21, 2007 12:39 PM

    I so love this little place; it always makes me happy to read about other good experiences there.

    I only just noticed this a couple of months back, but there's a public parking garage on Queensberry Street between Jersey and Kilmarnock. Queensberry is one-way, so you have to circle around and approach from the Kilmarnock side; it's on the left (north) side of that block. I usually take the #55 bus to get here, or walk from Kenmore Station.

    3 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB
      BostonZest Sep 21, 2007 01:20 PM

      MC you did a great description of Toscana in your article in the Pheonix this week. But, we may have to stop telling the unworthy about this place. (VBG)

      Great article and congrats on scoring a cover story!

      1. re: BostonZest
        MC Slim JB Sep 22, 2007 07:55 AM

        Thanks for the kind words!

        I have sometimes had that very un-Chowish notion: "If I tell everyone about this place, it will become mobbed and I'll never get a table without a two-hour wait again." But I've decided it's better to promote great places I think are overlooked, even if it makes it harder to get in. I've seen too many hidden gems just disappear for lack of crowds, to be replaced by something horrible, e.g., On the Park by Joe V's.

        (I'm sure local Hounds could fill a thread with currently successful restaurants that are far inferior to the ones they replaced, but that's not really in keeping with the board's aims.)

        I hope the Phoenix piece brings some attention and business to places like Don Ricardo's and O Cantinho that I visit regularly to find the dining room half-empty. They deserve better.

        1. re: MC Slim JB
          g
          Gabatta Jan 10, 2008 05:16 AM

          I think we are all guilty of that notion from time to time (or maybe most of the time), so don't be too hard on yourself. However with Toscana, I think that their location will keep the crowds down somewhat despite their ongoing excellence. For some reason which is difficult to pinpoint, that part of Fenway is no mans land to many people. Even for those who have had consistently great experiences there, it somehow slips the mind. This is a good thing for those who love the food and the fact that they can always get a table. Though the owners and staff deserve to be mobbed...

    2. BostonZest Sep 21, 2007 01:15 PM

      We always plan a special treat the week we return from our time away in Provincetown. It has to be something so delightful that we'll feel good about being back in the city.

      Last week we chose Trattoria Toscana to serve that purpose and it did not disappoint. We began with the mushroom crostini with glasses of Pinot Nero and Primativo. Next we shared an order of gnocchi with Tuscan meat sauce, and then my husband had the eggplant and I had the swordfish. He switched to Chianti and I had the Vernaccia. We finished with tiramisu and espresso. Service was perfect.

      We spoke with Chef Kociaj and he confirmed that they have ended lunch in order for him to have more time to shop and prepare things for the dinner service.

      Whatever he needs to do to keep the place we love the way we love it is fine with us. We'll just have to convince our friends to dine early if we want to score a table for six.

      Some of the best times we have had with food and friends in the past year have been sharing the food here with friends at a table for six. It solves that problem of wanting your favorites and wanting to try something new.

      Right now I'm waiting for a cool evening to try the lamb shank on their fall menu.

      2 Replies
      1. re: BostonZest
        t
        teezeetoo Sep 21, 2007 02:46 PM

        i always thank chowhound for introducing me to this place. other than the parking issue, it has been a consistent pleasure in quality, price, and service. low key, friendly and everything you hope a good neighborhood place will offer.

        1. re: teezeetoo
          BostonZest Sep 21, 2007 04:31 PM

          You can take the #55 Bus from Copley Square or from Dalton Street right to the corner of Jersey and Queensbury. That give you lots of parking opportunities or you can take the orange or green lines to the bus.

          From the Back Bay, we walk if it is a nice day, if not we take the bus.

          It's also not a bad walk from the Kenmore or Fenway stations on the green line.

      2. b
        bear Jan 10, 2008 04:50 AM

        We finally made it to Trattoria Toscana on Tuesday, and just loved it. We arrived at about 6:45, and the just a few tables were full. The room is really warm and inviting. We were very warmly greeted and quickly brought menus and very good saltless tuscan bread with olive oil and balsamic. After reading recent posts, I knew I had to try the porcini risotto, which was absolutely fabulous. The highlight of the evening. The depth of mushroom flavor is incredible. We also started with the rigatoni with sausage and mascarpone. Delicious, but I was having a hard time breaking away from the risotto. For mains, we had swordfish with capers and butter and a side of marinated grilled zucchini. Very good, but I was pretty full by that time. My husband had the sliced sirloin with creamy gorgonzola sauce, which was one of the best steaks he's had in ages. The potatoes that came with it were crunchy and creamy, and the side of spinach was huge and tasty. We finished with excellent expresso. Service was very good, and the vibe was really positive in general. It looked like people actually enjoyed what they were doing, from the front of the house to the kitchen. It was a wonderful time, and we'll be back soon.

        A note about parking: The garage on Queensberrythat McSlim mentions above is great, but a little confusing. We weren't even sure it was public parking because it is filled with taxis. There are a few spaces, and signs that say you need to pay the attendant at 60 Kilmarnock. I tturns out that the attendent is in the Deaconess garage, in the taxi station. You have to open the door around the side. The atttendant asked us how long we would be, and we said about 1 1/2 hours. Get this: $7! I'm guessing it fills up on weekends. Thanks for the tip, McSlim.

        1. m
          mmocpi Jan 10, 2008 05:19 AM

          Ristorante Toscano, at first I thought the thread was about this place at 47 Charles Street, also a great place!

          1 Reply
          1. re: mmocpi
            MC Slim JB Jan 10, 2008 06:06 AM

            Any recent reports on Ristorante Toscano (Beacon Hill)? I'd heard they were making big changes to the menu. I know they had recast one half of the restaurant as a more casual, less costly space a few years back, but it's been a long time since I've been or spoken to anyone else who has. Trattoria Toscana's superior, far cheaper take on Tuscan food kind of gutted its appeal for me.

          2. Science Chick Jan 27, 2008 05:27 AM

            My daughter was deserved of a celebration meal (pulling up her French grade *considerably*), and she wanted a memorable Italian meal. Recalling the excellent posts here, I suggested Trattoria Toscana, so off we all went. We arrived Sat. night before 6pm, and it was just full. Luckily the hostess suggested adding a third chair to a two-top and we quickly agreed. Plenty of room for us! I had a glass of the house chianti, which I agree is a great value for the quality. We started with the Caprese and the arugula salad. I was concerned because I forgot to ask them to bring the dressing on the side.....I like extremely small amounts of dressing. I was not disappointed, though...the rucola was outstanding...not bitter and perfectly dressed. My daughter downed her Caprese in no time...delicious. We continued with the gnocchi in gorgonzola and walnuts, and the ravioli with pesto. When I originally ordered, I asked if they could use the pesto from the Orecchiette on the ravioli, as it usually comes with a cream/tomato sauce and I'm trying to avoid cream. The waiter said the chef doesn't like to make substitutions, and suggested we simply get the Orecchiette. No go, it has pancetta and we're vegetarians. Could they make the Orchietti without the pancetta? He said he'd see what they could do...well, he brought the ravioli with the pesto. Both dishes were outstanding. The gnocchi were some of the best I've had....light and airy, not at all gummy. And that gorgonzola sauce!!!! Wow! The ravioli were equally perfect, and the pesto was great...the basil almost finely shredded so that you could taste little basil bits, instead of the usual puree. We finished with a cappuccino and the chocolate tartufo. This place will definitely be on our list for special nights!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Science Chick
              Sal Monella Jan 27, 2008 01:33 PM

              Good for you Science Chick. Glad it met and surpassed your expectations. Sometime on this board, the reviews are so over the top that they lead to some disappointments by first timers. This place is the real deal.

              We've loved this place since day one...actually I had lunch there the 3rd day after they opened. They were having AC problems but the food more than made up for any discomfort. Zamir and his wife are wonderful people and he's a talented, humble chef. We've never had a bad meal or experience there. It's bittersweet as word gets out, it will be tougher to get a table. They deserve all the accolades. Gran Gusto comes close but TT is still our favor for Italian cuisine.

            2. m
              mousemanb Mar 20, 2008 06:10 AM

              Hi all,

              Just wondering if this place is suitable for kids. I went WAY back when they first opened, but haven't been back yet. I want to take my girlfriend and some friends there for her birthday. We're thinking 6:30 on Friday, 9 people. Is that just wishful thinking?

              4 Replies
              1. re: mousemanb
                b
                bakerboyz Mar 20, 2008 07:16 AM

                It's a pretty small restaurant, you had better call and see if you can get a reservation for 9 people otherwise forget about it.

                1. re: bakerboyz
                  z
                  Zut Mar 20, 2008 07:31 AM

                  Yeah, I'm 95% certain they don't take reservations. And I think that even if they did, they may be reluctant to take on a table of more than six due to size constraints. And by 6:30 on a Friday they will likely already be very crowded.

                2. re: mousemanb
                  Sal Monella Mar 20, 2008 08:13 AM

                  That's a tall order. They have 16 2 person tables in total and limited space to move them around...especially tough on a Friday for 9. May not be ideal for kids either. They don't take reservations.

                  1. re: mousemanb
                    l
                    LauraB Mar 20, 2008 10:54 AM

                    I saw a large party there (group of 10 or so) on a Tuesday once, but they were fairly empty other than the large group and a couple of other tables. On a Friday even getting a table for 4 can be a while since two 2-tops have to open up within a reasonable period of time of each other. On a weekday, I think it might work for you, but not on a Friday night.

                  2. MC Slim JB Mar 20, 2008 08:51 AM

                    Had another superb dinner here recently, but noticed that the carafe of house red is now $26 (up from $18 once upon a time). No longer a great deal it used to be; I'm back to ordering bottles, which raises the check total a bit.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                      m
                      mousemanb Mar 20, 2008 11:32 AM

                      Thanks to everyone who replied. Yeah, I figured it was a long shot, but I had to inquire. I guess we'll have to just look elsewhere. :(

                      1. re: mousemanb
                        b
                        bear Mar 20, 2008 04:54 PM

                        Why not give them a call just to check it out and ask them directly? It is pretty small for a party of 9 on a busy night, but it's worth checking out. It is terrific.

                        Another similar place you could call would be Carlo's Cucina Italiana in Allston. Also terrific, and several posts on the board if you do a search. You could also check out Gran Gusto in Cambridge, which has a large parking lot out back. I don't find the food quite as good as Carlo's or Trattoria Italiana, with the exception of the superb pizza, but it is still very good and worth visiting.

                        -----
                        Trattoria Toscana
                        130 Jersey St, Boston, MA 02215

                        Carlo's Cucina Italiana
                        131 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

                        Gran Gusto
                        90 Sherman St, Cambridge, MA 02140

                        1. re: bear
                          a
                          autopi Mar 20, 2008 05:00 PM

                          just to add another good non-North End italian destination is la morra in brookline.

                      2. re: MC Slim JB
                        g
                        Gabatta Mar 20, 2008 01:39 PM

                        Is the mushroom risotto still on the menu? I am having a craving for it, however I will be disapointed if we trek over tonight and they don't have it.

                        1. re: Gabatta
                          j
                          jack324 Mar 22, 2008 03:20 PM

                          Thanks to the suggestions of everyone on this board, I'm going to Trattoria Toscana tomorrow to celebrate my 21st birthday. Last year we went to Giacomo's near Copley Square, which was nice, but so loud you couldn't hear yourself think.

                          1. re: jack324
                            s
                            southie Mar 22, 2008 03:28 PM

                            Congratulations on your birthday, as well as your choice! You will love it! Be safe!

                          2. re: Gabatta
                            BostonZest Mar 22, 2008 07:54 PM

                            The risotto was on the menu tonight.

                            We had another great meal! I think I'm addicted to the spinach and sausage Bruschetteria.

                            Happy Birthday and thanks to jack234 for the Toscana reminder that got us there tonight.

                            And thanks to you and your friends for reminding us that it is possible to get back to the tables for six at Toscana that we used to enjoy on Saturday afternoons back when they opened for lunch. If we can get folks there right at 5pm we can still do it!

                            1. re: BostonZest
                              w
                              whops Mar 23, 2008 06:52 PM

                              I too miss those Saturday lunches at Trattoria Toscana. Understated and sooooo just right.

                        2. t
                          tbiscaia Mar 23, 2008 07:07 PM

                          I see conflicting info on their hours... are they open for lunch or not?

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: tbiscaia
                            Sal Monella Mar 24, 2008 06:34 AM

                            They are definitely not doing lunches anymore. I spoke with Zamir regarding this as I used to enjoy heading there during lunch (I work close by).

                            1. re: Sal Monella
                              BostonZest Mar 24, 2008 07:33 AM

                              Sal is correct. A sad loss for us lunch folks but probably a smart move in the long run if it keeps one of our favorite chefs more rested and allows him to have more time for shopping and careful prep and a break from the restaurant.

                              1. re: BostonZest
                                Sal Monella Mar 24, 2008 08:35 AM

                                Last time I was in there, I was leaning on Zamir to open a 2nd rest...Davis Sq perhaps? Unfortunately, he didn't take the bait. He's committed to doing all the major cooking himself so running 2 places is out of the question...for now. And like you mentioned, I'm ok with him being rested and churning out great food.

                                1. re: Sal Monella
                                  j
                                  jack324 Mar 25, 2008 08:15 PM

                                  Just got back from La Trattoria Toscana a few hours ago, and yes, I feel it definitely lived up to the hype. The three of us shared mushrooms on bruschetta and a spinach dish as our antipasti, and our mains were eggplant parmigiana, swordfish steak, and a to-die-for plate of thinly sliced beef and arugala salad. For dessert, we all had the chocolate fondant with fresh cream, and that was mind-blowingly delicious. The waitstaff were very attentive, kind and informative. The wine was good - not great, but certainly drinkable. Thanks for the suggestion everyone, we'll definitely be making a return visit in the near future.

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