[Playa de las Americas, Tenerife, Spain] Ciao Toto

I think Ciao Toto has become my favourite Italian restaurant in the area. In fact, it may just be one of my overall favourite restaurants in the area. The food is not the Anglicised dishes that you’ll come across in most Italian restaurants in the UK, but dishes that you’d be likely to come in a small Italian town (although not all of them in the same restaurant as places there tend to be much more regional in their offerings).

So, one of us started with a dish from the north of the country. A spinach salad, tossed with walnuts, strips of salty speck and topped with a thick slice of Tomino cheese (from the Piedmont region according to Wikipedia), which had been melted so it had just started to get oozy. The other starter probably came from bit further south, near Venice – lovely sweet clams, cooked in a light broth with croutons of bread thrown in at the last minute so, if you were quick, they stayed crisp till you’d finished.

To southern Italy for both main courses. Both of them pasta. Penne came with chunks of a tasty sausage, nuggets of sweet, fatty lardo and bits of rich, earthy porcini. The pasta was, of course, perfectly cooked “al dente”. As was the paccheri – think very big macaroni – which was dressed with a long cooked meat sauce, flavoured with provolone cheese, pepper and hefty hit of basil.

Only one of us wanted dessert. That came from as far south as you can get –a Sicilian cannolo. Perhaps not the finest version I’ve eaten but still really good. Crisp pastry, thick but not overly so, filled with a sweetened ricotta mixed with a little chocolate. It was, perhaps, overly sweet for my taste and a bit claggy in texture – but I’m nit-picking here over one of my favourite Italian desserts. Unsurprisingly, espresso was hot, strong and packed with flavour

This was a cracker of a meal and I’m glad we’d made a reservation (phone or online via Tripadvisor). The place was deservedly busy on a Saturday night and walk-ins may well have been turned away.

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RETURN VISIT

The restaurant no longer has an online reservation facility through The Fork (always easier than phoning when the language of the person at the other end isn’t your language). But they quickly responded to a request through their Facebook page.

One starter saw ham and mozzarella sandwiched between two thin slices of cooked aubergine, then coated and fried to crisp. It was a generous portion of three “sandwiches”, sat on a little rocket. Delicious, if overly salty. The other starter was a simple mixed salad that did exactly what it said on the tin – a bowl of mixed salady bits, nicely dressed.

Pizza was a lovely, tasty light dough that was nicely chewy, with tomato sauce, mozzarella and just the right amount of toppings of anchovy, olives, capers and basil. Rigatoni Amatriciana was perfectly “al dente”. There was a clingy sauce of cherry tomatoes, pigs cheek (guanciale), olive oil and just a hint of chilli.

Only one of us wanted dessert. That’d be me. I’m on mission to find the perfect tiramisu and will usually order it in any new Italian restaurant we go to (although we had cannolo last time we were here, cos you don’t come across that too often). My current “Top Two” are places in Greater Manchester, UK and Burlington, Vermont, USA. Would this be a contender? Unfortunately not – it was too sweet without any real kick from coffee or booze. I’d have hoped for better from a place run by Italians and clearly having lots of Italian ex-pats amongst its customers. My quest continues.

Coffee, unsurprisingly, was very good.

Service was fine at the beginning of the meal but as the place filled up (with those Italian ex-pats) it fell apart somewhat. Yes, it’s fine to look after your regulars but don’t neglect your other customers.

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The usual problem. It looks easy to make, but good one is rare.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2