“Dave” she asked me years ago as I was talking with a friend in Huatulco, Oaxaca, “have you ever eaten at La Toscana?” I had to confess I had not. Despite spending years in the barrio known locally as Jalatlaco, and remembering a friend telling me years ago to try it out, I had never been there.
It always looked a little otherworldly to me. Walking along Calle 5 de Mayo, negotiating the cobblestone streets to the ADO Bus Station, I had looked inside and secretly felt like I didn’t belong, that perhaps it was too good for me.
Maybe it was the bright blue wall outside harkening to something different. Maybe it was the indoor pond. Or maybe my bias against eating Italian food in Mexico. Whatever it was, it was evident I was avoiding a wonderful restaurant that consistently puts out good food and top notch service.
I’ve now been there enough times to list La Toscana among my growing list of favorite places to eat in Oaxaca. And you should too.
If you are familiar with local architecture, you’ll pick up immediately that you are in a converted old house. The open courtyard has become a wonderful pond that adds some huge atmosphere to the experience. Seated at tables surrounding the old rooms, you’ll have a view of that pond and the nighttime lights no matter where you are.
And once you sit down, you’re going to be treated to some of the best service not found on the Las Vegas Strip. The staff is very attentive, explains the dishes and genuinely wants you to enjoy your experience.
We ordered drinks and an appetizer, the grilled provolone cheese, to get started. Before they arrived, we had an aluminum basket of warm bread and some garlic butter at our table. Let me warn you, go easy on the bread or you’ll fill up quick. The cheese was soft and gooey inside, with a nice outer crust topped of by a roasted tomato. With a little salsa, it was a wonderful bit of fusion between Italy and Mexico.
Everyone had caesar salads which consisted of four romaine leaves, topped with dressing and shredded parmesan cheese. I felt they overdid the cheese and the dressing needed a little more anchovy, but that is a minor criticism. My friends had chicken with their salads and honestly, you could make that a main dish, pair it with an appetizer and drinks and call it a night.
Over the last few months, I’ve taken a lot of friends to La Toscana. It’s one way to learn pretty quick how good the total menu is. I could list all of the various options, but suffice to say no one has been disappointed with any of the option from the pizzas to the steaks. My standout by far is the “pulpo sarandeado”.
It’s a small octopus marinated in an adobo sauce and then roasted over an open fire, paired with black rice, a spinach vinaigrette salad and served on a wooden tablet. With the black rice evoking a sense of the octopus ink, this is a great dish. It’s fun, great to look at and most important, delicious. If a friend wants something a little different, and likes seafood, this is what I recommend.
We finished off the night with coffee, tea and of course dessert. My friends and I shared a three layer creation of light and airy merengue cookies, divided with a tart lemon sorbet and then topped with blackberries. Easily a two person dessert, as are most of their dessert offerings.
When I was at La Toscana earlier in the year, I had a friend with me who is one of the leaders in the industry for tours to Italy. Having been born in Italy, I was very nervous taking here to eat at La Toscana. The minute she saw the tall hard breadsticks, she was sold. She told me she had only seen these in restaurants in Italy. And like me, she loved the food and the experience.
I always ask myself this question when I visit a restaurant and review it… “Would I return?” Of course I would.
Next time you are in Oaxaca, do something different. Leave the Alcala behind, take a three buck taxi ride to La Toscana and have a great meal worthy of Italy and Dave Miller’s Mexico!
La Toscana de Oaxaca, Calle 5 de Mayo 614, Jalatlaco, Oaxaca
Dinner for 2, no drinks… about $40.00 USD, tip included.