First-year NICBC student Olivia Japlon revisits Beacon Hill Italian restaurant Toscano to see if it’s still as good as she remembers it being. Spoiler alert: it is.
Walking down Charles Street in Beacon Hill is a must for anyone visiting Boston and for anyone who is new to the city. Set among beautiful brownstones, the street’s brick-paved sidewalks are lined with cafes, shops, and restaurants. I lived in Beacon Hill for four years and tried most of the eateries on Charles Street, but one still brings back very good memories: Toscano.
Toscano in Beacon Hill is perfect for when your parents visit, when you have a reason to celebrate with friends, or when you and your significant other have a date night. Its Italian menu has something for everyone: caprese salad, calamari, pizza, pasta, steak, and fish. Plus, tiramisu or gelato for dessert is an easy sell. Prices range from $10-$15 for appetizers, $20-25 for pasta, and $25-40 for fish or meat entrees.
I first visited Toscano when my parents were in town a few years ago, and to this day, my mom still reminds me how much she liked her dinner there. Even though I don’t live in Beacon Hill anymore, I still think about the restaurant’s wonderfully creamy burrata salad and light, yet flavorful, ricotta ravioli. While browsing OpenTable one evening, I saw an opening at Toscano and decided to treat myself by making a dinner reservation there for me and my boyfriend.
When we walked into the restaurant on a Saturday evening, music played softly in the background, the lights were dim, and there was a calm “buzz” from the chatter at nearby tables. We sat down at our table by the windows overlooking Charles Street. I was pleased that I didn’t have to yell to my boyfriend across the table or use the flashlight feature on my phone to see the menu.
Toscano has a long list of Italian wines by the glass and by the bottle from which to choose from. The cocktails range from a classic Negroni to a “Bicicletta” with Campari, pinot grigio, soda water and lime. On this particular night, I went with the gin dirty martini, which was crisp and strong. My boyfriend had an Old Fashioned – his favorite – and although somewhat small, he was happy with it.
Our waitress was friendly and attentive, and we were both impressed by her recitation of the specials that evening. Throughout the night, she checked on us, but also didn’t make us feel rushed.
As we waited for our appetizer, we received a bread basket with slices of focaccia and a baguette-like loaf. The focaccia was a little dry, but the fruity olive oil that accompanied the bread more than made up for that. To start, we ordered calamari with lemon and mustard sauce. The calamari was tender, and the sauce was bright and a little spicy. The portion was generous for two people and could have easily served three.
Promptly after we finished the appetizer, we received our entrees: linguine vongole for me, and rigatoni Toscano for my boyfriend. My dish smelled amazing and the presentation was clean: clams sat on a bed of al-dente pasta with tomatoes and white wine. The dish’s flavors were light and the sauce left at the bottom was perfect for the extra bread in the bread basket. The whole dish could have been shared between two people, but it was a good, hearty meal for one person. My boyfriend’s entrée, while not as large as mine, was rich and had a smokiness from the bacon in the cream sauce. Topped with parmesan cheese, it was delicious and had a good combination of flavors.
Because there’s always room for dessert, we ordered tiramisu. Toscano’s tiramisu is served in a cocktail glass, rather than as a slice on a plate; it was almost like a deconstructed version of the Italian classic. The presentation was different, which threw off my boyfriend, but the dessert was fluffy from the mascarpone and all the typical flavors of espresso, cocoa and vanilla were present. Because I care less about looks and more about taste, I thought it was excellent and would definitely order it again.
Overall, Toscano lived up to my memories from several years ago. The service was wonderful, the food was filling and flavorful, and the setting of quaint Charles Street was perfect for our date night. If you don’t live in Boston, have no fear, there’s another Toscano location in Harvard Square. While I haven’t been, I imagine it’s just as good and worth trying.
Olivia Japlon is a first-year NICBC student, focusing on nutrition communications. You can usually find her running on the Esplanade, walking around the South End, or trying new restaurants around Boston. When time permits, she likes visiting her parents (and dog) in Chicago and traveling to National Parks.