[Cambridge] One cheer for Toscano (H^2)

We eat here often. It’s no-nonsense, non-pretentious food that strikes the right balance between being not-all-that-good and over-exciting. You emerge soothed, full, and calm – the right mood in which to catch a movie at the Brattle, as opposed to more challenging restaurants where you spend hours trying to analyze what you ate. Plus the menu is expansive – none of this 5 apps and 5 mains frugality that afflicts fancier places.

On our most recent visit (last week) we had the pasta e fagiole soup and a hefty eggplant parm to start. The soup was nicely beany, with a bite, the pasta firm. The eggplant parm wasn’t an interpretation that’s my favorite: the eggplant slices were cut thick (I lean to the thin, multilayered, mille feuille school of eggplant parm – and that’s how I make it), and weren’t breaded. I know, I know, it’s healthier not to bread-and-fry, but the breading adds heft to the final dish. Still, the saucing was perfect (both the bright taste and the correct proportion), and the cheese plentiful and good. Plus, it was a huge portion. The leftovers made two terrific (medium-sized) sandwiches on crusty bread for lunch the next day, kicked up a notch with a drizzle of good olive oil and red pepper flakes.

As our mains we had a superb oven-baked cod in a lemony sauce with equally superb roast potatoes, and a less-superb linguini with clams (too many fresh chopped tomatoes that were of the cardboard variety). A quartino of wine each and we got out for around $120 (all inclusive).


Toscano was not on my radar at all so this is an extremely useful review, thank you! Have you ever tried the Rigatoni Toscano?

Thanks for the review. My business partner has been trying to get me to try Toscano as it is one of his favorites. He has about the same interpretation as yours. Everything sounds good to me, except the thick cut eggplant. For thin cut eggplant parm, we go to Carmela’s in Kingston (right off Rt. 3). It’s really very good with their homemade fucilli.

Will be trying Toscano. Heading to Villa Francesca tomorrow night. Our go to!!!


GretchenS: No, haven’t had that pasta.

A further plus for Toscano is that it’s open all day, serving the full menu.

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Went to Toscano last night, a week after they reopened after their recent fire. They’ve always been a place that fired on enough cylinders to quietly chug along, with no surprises or excitements in the food, good or bad. Judging from last night, they have not yet climbed back to that medium bar.

The cheese and salami platter was wan, with a couple of slices of indifferent prosciutto, a couple of a blandish genoa salami, a wedge of piave, and a few small hunks of parmesan. The olives strewn about were the tastiest element. I had oysters as my starter, and they were the most inexpertly shucked I’ve had. I had to negotiate shards of shell on the edges, as I slurped, and the stray shard on the oyster itself. Like passing_thru, I like 'em naked, but was still fascinated by their serving, along with the obligatory mignonette, a hefty portion of a thick, heavy cocktail sauce. My main was a special of penne with “jumbo shrimp.” For twenty six bucks I got three medium-large shrimp, cooked to truly rubbery badness, atop a substantial plate of penne in a heavy, thick, burnt-garlic tomato sauce. It was the kind of sauce that might have worked with, say, sausage (had they not burnt the garlic – and I speak as someone who scoffs at the idea that garlic should never color, and enjoys it in all its glories from raw through lightly sauteed, to golden-toasted), but was a sublimely bad choice for shrimp. My wife’s starter rigatoni was better, with little bacon bits, but her main course steak was tender while avoiding offering any hint that it was beef. A salad on the table had fine arugula (hard to screw that up) but – a crime at this point in the summer with markets bursting with juicy ones packed with flavor – cardboardy tomatoes.

I’m hoping this is just a small glitch on their road to recovery, and I’ll certainly go there again a few more times to see how they are doing. They’re conveniently located, their prices are reasonable, their hours are unbeatable, and their food in the past has been solid (without overdoing it).