Tosca Café is an iconic San Francisco institution. While the kitchen has been closed since 1953, a New York power duo of April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman (from The Spotted Pig and The Breslin fame) have decided to give this place a new jolt with their soulful Italian dishes. Ever since the renovation, Tosca Café has consistently gained fame as one of the best newcomers in San Francisco. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I visited this place, as I had mixed experiences with Bloomfield’s restaurants before (The Spotted Pig was outstanding, while The Breslin was a bit too heavy for me). While I liked the rustic, hearty feel of the food from the restaurant, overall I was a bit too overwhelmed by the seasoning.
While the market salad was certainly fresh and I liked the crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled throughout the dish, the wild oregano vinaigrette could’ve been toned down. I had high hopes for the pasta dishes at Tosca Café, but both were a bit too heavy for me. Lumaconi that came with prosciutto and lemon breadcrumbs could’ve been worse if not for the lemony taste. Bucatini was a little more successful, with very nice texture of noodle and the combination of tomato, guanciale and chili giving the dish a rustic touch.
I had very high expectations for the much-heralded roasted chicken for two that came with ricotta, pine nuts and marsala, but it turned out to be underwhelming in the meat’s tenderness (I’ve had better chickens elsewhere in NYC to be honest) and overwhelming in the gravy’s seasoning. By this time, I was beyond stuffed with the heaviness of most dishes. Cannoli dessert was a light dish that I was able to still work my way through and helped neutralize the heaviness that lingered on my palate.
The restaurant has a full bar with some inventive cocktail menus. I highly recommend the house “cappuccino” drink, a bourbon-based cocktail with chocolate and milk (the name is somewhat misleading as there is no coffee). Tosca Café has been packed since the opening of the kitchen, and when I arrived the noise coming from the dining area was deafening. Fortunately, there is a back dining area that is a lot quieter if you want to avoid the crowd. The dining room does have a very classic feel to the old San Francisco, with a juke box on the side greeting the diners. Whether you are a out-of-town visitor or a local, Tosca Café is a place worth considering just for its vibe and drinks. I just wish the general direction of the flavor from the kitchen were somewhat toned down. Based on my experience at The Spotted Pig, I really think chef Bloomfield could further improve the dining experience without putting too much seasoning.
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 7.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 7.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
Address: 242 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133
Telephone: (415) 986-9651