2832 E. 6200 South, Holladay ; 801-277-9919
One of Salt Lake's most charming dining rooms -- possibly its best patio -- serving fresh food with Italian style.
Hours: M-F 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; M-S, 5-10 p.m.; Su 10 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9 p.m.
Liquor: Full Service
Recommended Dishes: Double pork chop, banana cream pie.
November 1, 2006
It may be Tuscan in name only, but it's still a delightful escape
By Mary Brown Malouf
HOLLADAY -- Next to "gourmet," "Tuscan" has to be the most overused word in the culinary language. Not only overused, overused incorrectly. "Tuscan" has come to mean "pretentious" and by now has trickled down to California Pizza Kitchen, which is famous for its Tuscan hummus. T.G.I. Friday's serves Tuscan spinach dip. Applebee's has a Tuscan pesto chicken sandwich on a ciabatta roll. It's gotten to the point where I cringe when I see the word.
But Salt Lake's Tuscany has been around since before Tuscan was passe. So, allow the name as a poetic implication of atmosphere and attitude, not a promise of what's on the plate.
Located in the golden dining triangle in Holladay (Cotton Bottom Inn is across the street and Tuscany shares a parking lot with its sibling restaurant, Franck's), Tuscany's drive-up impression is chillingly similar to La Caille. The almost painfully picturesque entrance leads into a foyer, dining room and bar almost lost under their drape of fake grapevines and dried flowers.
Fortunately, the polished and professional service and the good food mitigated the faux flourishes so the charm shone through. And the artlessly vine-draped, candle-lit flagstone patio was as thoroughly and genuinely charming as, well, a nice place in Tuscany.
We started with a couple of glasses of prosecco ($6.50 a glass), but Tuscany's menu is not faithfully Tuscan. Really, it is impossible to truly translate the regionality of Italian food to an American table. In Tuscany, even the word "Tuscan" is too broad a term. Are you eating in the Maremma? Or in Chianti? Italians are passionately regional about their food and you would no more find ragú Bolognese in Florence than you would find unsalted bread (a Tuscan peculiarity) in Rome.
In this country, the word "Tuscan" simply implies a subtler seasoning, a more naturally sophisticated style of cooking, than the heavy, red-sauced food we identified as Italian for so long. Is porterhouse steak sauced with a port wine-pomegranate reduction, served with blue-cheesed potatoes and baby carrots ($38.95), really any kind of Italian food? What about banana cream pie ($6.50), one of Tuscany's more popular desserts?
Or Tuscany's specialty, a burnished club of a pork chop, the thick, pink-juiced double meat roasted on the bone and served with balsamic onions and scallion mashed potatoes ($25.95)? No. but it was delicious, as judiciously cooked as a piece of pork ever could be -- in Utah or Italy.
And the banana cream pie -- in a coconut crust with burnt sugar topping and chocolate sauce -- was as good as it gets. I recognized the distinctly non-Tuscan idiosyncratic meatloaf of pulled pork and beef with a deep, tart berry sauce ($23.95) from Franck's menu next door -- the kitchens enjoy a back-door cooperation.
Flatbread continues to be all the rage; Tuscany employs another flight of poetic culinary prose and calls their version "hearthbread." Toppings vary, but some, like the one with meat sauce, mozzarella, sausage, onions and peppers, ($11.95) came across more like a pizza from Little Italy than a first course.
A lovely pear salad with bitter greens -- arugula, radicchio and endive -- with crispy pine nuts and creamy Gorgonzola crumbles in a champagne vinaigrette ($8.95), made a more seductive first course, whetting the palate for more contrasts to come. Slivers of sweet red onion brightened the house salad, a simple toss of greens and tomatoes in vinaigrette ($3.95).
Simple roast chicken ($18.95) was crisp-skinned and juicy, but oversalted to my taste -- a little too much Dijon mustard in the butter baste, maybe. The mashed potatoes were supposed to be seasoned with olive oil, but if there was any, the oil was added too soon or was too wimpy for its fragrance to be noticed. A final drizzle of green extra virgin olive oil would have been good.
Tuscany is Tuscan in its admirable restraint -- the kitchen doesn't try many trendy tricks. One of the best dishes we had was a simple pasta of shells, sugar snap peas, fresh tomatoes and roasted corn in a vegetable broth instead of a sauce ($14.95). The proportion of vegetables to pasta was perfect so that the interplay of textures and flavors came through in every bite, but there was nothing more complicated than that to this dish.
In that sense, and a couple of others, Tuscany truly lives up to its name. Enormous care has been taken with the wine list and despite the Wine Spectator's high ratings, there are a number of affordable, drinkable bottles.
And Cici, the calico cat, wanders around the patio with proprietary élan.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.