Friday, September 14, 2012

Toscana Café

Since opening in August of 2009, Toscana Café has quickly distinguished itself as one of the most friendly and affordable restaurants on Capitol Hill.  A cozy space that can only be described as “charming”, Toscana Café offers Italian food with wonderfully friendly service.  The cuisine at Toscana Café under Chef Catalani offers fresh pasta and breads, which are made daily, to lush greens and vegetables.  Take out and catering is also available.  The outdoor seating, generous portions, and decent Italian food makes Toscana Café a gathering place and an asset for Capitol Hill, serving everyone from its neighbors to the nation’s congressmen. Closest Metro is Union Station.

We have passed by this restaurant numerous times while heading to Union Station.  People are often seen on the patio during Happy Hours with buckets of beer and eating pizza and wings.  So when Keith said he got a LivingSocial coupon for a three-course meal with bottle of wine for two people, I was surprised.  It never crossed my mind to have a nice prix fix meal here.

When we entered the door, I was a bit confused as the takeout counter is right there, but someone quickly escorted us upstairs to the small dining room.  We showed our coupon and the server explained we could anything from each section of the menu.  As for the bottle of wine, we could choose from a handful of the house reds or whites. I chose the pinot grigio to be safe and we took time looking over the menu options.  For my appetizer I decided upon the Polipo - grilled octopus with a sweet potato, celery and fig salad with salsa verde.  The presentation was cluttered with piles of curled beets and carrots on top two legs of baby octopus.  The room temperature mix of figs and sweet potato mash was confusing with the sour salsa verde.  I was not really pleased with this dish.  Keith chose a more traditional starter with the Arancini -saffron risotto balls, stuffed with beef and smoked mozzarella.  They were piping hot and served with a side of plain marinara sauce.  He enjoyed the rice balls and found them better than at other places, since they were not as soggy or steamed.

For my main entree, I chose Gnocchi with basil pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and shrimp.  What looked like a large portion arrived, but was mostly sauce.  The gnocchi dumplings themselves were plain and way too doughy, but the sauce was flavorful and the shrimp seasoned and cooked perfectly.  instead of sun-dried tomatoes, I had cherry tomatoes.  Keith chose the Maccheroni - a semolina pasta with braised rabbit, peppers, olives, and rosemary.  His sauce was super herbaceous and fragrant from the rosemary. The rabbit pieces were both white and dark meat.  The wide ribbon pasta was cooked nicely and overall, Keith enjoyed his dish.  Finally, for dessert I chose the carrot cake and Keith had the chocolate truffle cake.  Both were lackluster and seemed to have been sitting out all day long.  I would not have ordered it, but since dessert came with our coupon deal we ate some of it.

Overall, Toscana Cafe was an average restaurant most likely better for its lunch or casual fare on the patio.  I would not return for formal dinner.

Total Rating: 3.3
Food: 3, Price: 4, Service: 3, Ambience: 3, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
grilled octopus with a sweet potato, celery and fig salad with salsa verde

with basil pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, shrimp

Toscana's Carrot Cake 

Plus Keith ate:
saffron risotto balls, stuffed with beef and smoked mozzarella

semolina pasta, braised rabbit, peppers, olives, and rosemary

Chocolate Truffle Cake

Toscana Cafe on Urbanspoon

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