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Tosca, Chef Riccardo Rinaldi's Northern Italian Cuisine and Homemade Pastas at 11th and F Streets Downtown


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i searched and to no avail, much to my chagrinning consternation. or perhaps my grasp of operating machinery lacks something, a certain finesse, predictedly ending in, how the french say, a certain cul de sac. enough of this tomfoolery.

if for no other reason, go to tosca and order the tomato marmelade tart with ricotta basil gelato and basil syrup. the disc of pastry, baked to a golden hue recalling the skin tones of the snug decaying descendents of aristocrats who play their life away beneath the long dead still mediterreanean sun in nice and monaco, crackles at the slightest pressure, as your fork oozes through the tranquil carmine pond of tomato marmelade, marmelade whose very flavor completely obfuscates the taste buds: it is sweet, yes, but not sugar sweet, but still not raw sliced tomate sweet and anything but acidic; the verdant quenelle of gelato haunts with ricotta's fresh whey-ness yet tempers the aggressive and volatile source of this faintly sweet soft emerald gem, the basil. it is like no dessert and yet, it is the apotheosis of simple desserts: seasonal fruit tart, with an appropiate accoutrementing creaminess.

ive not had my fix this year and this changes. this changes tonight. you owe it to yourself to have this dessert. really you do.

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[Posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

Can there be a more satisfying meal than enjoying the handmade pastas at the bar at Tosca with some vino?

Last week I sauntered into the bar, only to run into the great sommelier Kathy Morgan who recommended some small courses for me to try, and matched them seamlessly with a well-priced bottle of Dolcetto d'Alba.

Grilled Mediterranean octopus with sauteed chanterelle mushrooms and a creamy sea urchin sauce was elegantly urchined, with the chanterelles hiding amongst the fork-tender octopus like little chameleons on a leaf. This was a fine dish, but nothing - nothing - could have prepared me for the two pasta courses that came next.

A little-known secret is that Tosca offers half-orders of their pastas while sitting at the bar, and this brings the price down to the $8-11 range for what are simply some of the greatest pasta dishes I have ever eaten. Please read the following aloud five times: Pillow-shaped braised duck ravioli with foie gras sauce. Pasta, and food in general, does not get any better than this dish. It was the kind of dish you bite into and you can't believe it's so good, and then you look down at your plate and see that there's an entire order left sitting in front of you, and you feel like a sexless man who just walked into a harem (p.s. here's a great definition of "Expert": a guy who knows 100 ways to make love but doesn't know any women.) And then the next dish, while not as elaborate, was every bit its equal - Kathy told me that they had some papardalle left from midday, and that they could make it in a Bolognese sauce (it was not on the regular menu, but apparently they feature the Bolognese sauce several times a week). You might not think to get something this simple after sloughing all the way to 11th and F Streets, but you should think again. I just can't imagine anything that's any better than this.

And the dessert! No way I wasn't going to order the Organic tomato marmalade sweet tart with ricotta-basil gelato and basil syrup (doesn't that "read" really well?) Well, thank goodnesss I did, because it was one of the best desserts I've had in a long, long time. It was a work of art on the plate, looking like a little pizza with the tomato marmalade spread on the tart, topped with the ricotta and basil leaves, surrounded by blueberries (trust me, they worked here) looking like little olives. The tragedy is that it is now September, the chef is back from a brief vacation, and almost surely this dish will be coming off the menu because the tomatoes will soon be gone, but if it's there, order it, order it, and the stars will align and everything will be right with the world.

Pasta. Tosca. Think of the two words together, always.

Rocks.

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Had a nice but FAST Restaurant Week dinner a Tosca tonight. Arrived at 8:20 for an 8:30 reservation and was out the door at 9:30. They were turning and burning the tables tonight.

That said, they do offer their entire menu and even give you some flexibility in choosing a pasta for your appetizer or your main or even for both courses if you are so inclined.

The risotto with smoked scamorza, figs and rosemary. This reminded me a of an eposide of Frasier where Gil the food critic described something as a "fromaggian delight" and Martin said, "Yeah. Cheesy." But the fig made it something more than cheesy. The subtle sweetness cut through and complemented the strong cheese flavor from the saucy risotto and the pieces of barely melted cheese scattered througout.

The raviolis we both had as appetizers - a ricotta and raisin in a butter sage sauce and a veal and spinach in red wine and butter sauce were both as rich and as refined as pasta can be. Neither of these are some southern Italian peasant dish.

Only a penne with crab and olives in a red pepper olive oil sauce underwhelmed. Too subtle, almost bland, but at the same time too many flavors competing with the crab, which should be the star of the dish.

Jenrus' dessert was a watermelon granita that was simple - a little too simple? Maybe. On the other hand, the strudel of blueberries and peach with vanilla gelato was summery and more imprtantly, didn't feel like a dish they created for Restaurant Week, but a dish they created because it was in season.

I want to return to Tosca when it isn't Restaurant Week. I want to savor the full effect of this place. And I'm not sure you can do that in an hour and ten minutes.

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I went on Thursday night for a solo dinner while Mr. BLB worked late.

I was in and out in an hour. Felt slightly rushed but not too badly. It was still early and all the tables weren't full yet.

I started with the grilled octopus with chantrelles and creamy urchin sauce--good but I thought they were a bit overdone.

Next was the ravioli with veal and spinach. Wow! Lick the plate good.

Dessert was the tiramisu. Lovely and just what I wanted. (And the reason I opted for dinner at Tosca over Dino's ultimately--I needed chocolate!)

No wine--too hot -- althought I was impressed by the wine list.

I need to plan a return trip when it's a bit cooler and I can indulge more fully in the pastas and wines.

Jennifer

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Just another voice of praise for Tosca's pastas. You may think the appeal of great pastas is limited to cold, wintry days when one longs to be nourished by butter and starch; yet no soul of true pasta lover can be left unperturbed with what Tosca churns out.

A week ago a friend and I hit Tosca on a Saturday night. Many details are now hazy in mind thanks to excellent wine suggestions of Darling Kathy Morgan and demolition-derby Restaurant Week, but I keep swooning to the memories of ricotta ravioli with sage, butter and raisins shamelessly pilfered from my friend's plate, and my very own rabbit pasta concoction.

I can't wait for the fall and winter. I can't wait to have a miserable, long, painfull practice full of falls on cold ice - so that I can walk my bruised bottom into Tosca's door, settle comfortably on a barstool, and cheer myself up with fantastic pasta.

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We're heading tonight to Tosca. I'm a rookie but my husband has been for lunches previously. Most of the recent comments are from Restaurant Week visits. Was the full menu available or should I expect different offerings this evening? All suggestions are appreicated.

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We're heading tonight to Tosca.  I'm a rookie but my husband has been for lunches previously.  Most of the recent comments are from Restaurant Week visits.  Was the full menu available or should I expect different offerings this evening?  All suggestions are appreicated.

The full menu as available during restaurant week, although I'm sure they vary the offerings week to week.

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My husband and I greatly enjoyed our dinner last night at Tosca. We decided to give the tasting menu and wine parings a try....and I'm REALLY glad we did! Our reservation was at 7:00 and the dining room was fairly quiet and uncrowded. When we left at 9:30, almost every table was filled but it never seemed loud or frenzied. Service was terrific; attentive but unhurried. For me it was an evening of revelations and appreciation. My husband and I enjoy wine, but are by no means aficionados. The wine parings were a real treat and certainly helped to expand my appreciation of the art of matching dishes with particular wines.

"MENU DEL DEGUSTAZIONE" with wine tasting

Carpaccio di tonno delle Hawai con caviale osetra, melanzane, olive e salsa ai capperi

Ahi tuna carpaccio with Osetra caviar, eggplant caviar, olives and caper sauce

Sauvignon Blanc - Livio Felluga 2003

I've been on a tuna kick all summer. Tartar, sashimi and now carpaccio. I'm glad I saved the carpaccio for last....because it was by far the best of the past few months.

'Cannelloni' d'ostriche e portobello al Parmigiano, salsa ai ricci di mare

Wellfleet oysters 'cannelloni' with portobello mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, sea urchin sauce

Riesling - G.D. Vajra "Langhe Bianco" 2003

The Riesling arrived slightly before the oysters. I took a quick sip and "Parmesan cheese" popped into my brain. It was a definite "ah ha!" moment for me. And then presented to me are the oysters with mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. It was my moment of true revelation and appreciation for skill it takes to perfectly pair a wine with a food. Sadly, Wine Director Kathy Morgan was out of the restaurant last night so I couldn't properly express my appreciation of her skill. I wanted to be sure and note it here.

Raviolo 'aperto' all'aragosta del Maine con porri, uova di quaglia e salsa al fegato d'anatra

Free style 'open' raviolo with roasted Maine lobster, leeks, quail egg and foie gras sauce

Sangiovese Rosato- Castello di Ama 2004

I was a bit disappointed that the tasting menu only had one pasta. Oh but what a pasta it was! A huge bowl-sized ravioli with a perfectly cooked lobster claw and the most incredibly rich foie gras sauce. My mouth is watering just with the memory.

Risotto alle spugnole e piselli, con molecche della baia

Risotto of morel mushrooms and green peas, with sautéed local soft shell crab $ 28

Pinot Noir - Alois Lageder "Krafuss" 2001 $17.00

Here was appreciation and revelation #2 for the evening. I'm just not a big green pea fan in general. But combined with morels and risotto? Really, how bad and green pea-ish could it be. I tried the first bite....hmmmm....pretty tasty. I ate a bite of the perfectly sauteed soft shell crab and then another bite of the risotto. All of a sudden, the dish was transformed. The two worked perfectly together. My green pea phobia melted away and I would have liked to lick the bowl clean! Wonderful.

Manzo Kobe in crosta di pane allo spek, ruchetta, purea di aglio novello e mandorle; salsa al tartufo nero

Roasted Kobe Beef with imported smoked prosciutto and bread crust, baby arugola, young garlic-almond puree; black truffle sauce

Sangiovese/Cabernet - San Polo "Mezzopane" 2001

By this point I'm stuffed. Luckily, the Kobe is just the right size and cooked to absolute medium-rare perfect. And the back truffle sauce was pretty darn amazing too.

Sfogliatina di pomodoro con gelato al basilico e ricotta, Sciroppo al basilico

Organic tomato marmelade sweet tart with ricotta-basil gelato and basil syrup

Moscadello di Montalcino - Castello Banfi "Florus" 2003

In the end, I think it was my pre-dinner obsessing with this dessert that convinced my husband that we should try the tasting menu last night. I eat tomatoes two meals a day this time of year. I couldn't wait to try this dessert...and I wasn't disappointed. The marmelade was sweet but the tomato flavors shone through. The tart would have been simply very good on its own. But with the addition of the ricotta-basil gelato, this dessert becomes genuinely excellent. Thanks to all who recommended it!

Since I didn't get to try as many pastas as I'd hoped last night, I think I'll have to head back VERY soon!

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our waiter was somewhat apologetic when he recommended the tomato tart with basil gelato for dessert, saying that it sounds weird to some people but it's really not. he didn't steer us wrong, but i had been hoping for a bolder tomato adventure. the marmalade is slightly chewy, like candy, and the tomato flavor is mild, with a hint of honey that is actually sugar. if there is cinammon in this, it morphs into something else. watermelon granita was loose, a bit too diluted, though an acceptable alternative to end a meal. (the best granita i have ever had was an experesso version at zuni cafe in san francisco that is layered with cream and turns syrupy and dense as it melts.)

prosciutto with cantaloupe, small tomato ravioli and a risotto smoky with mozzarella and sweetened by two thin slices of fig and a dribble or two of vinegar were the highlights of our meal. pork medallions were sausage accompanied by spinach and delicious scalloped potatoes. add eggs, and this would be great food for breakfast at the italian diner of your dreams.

we had sort of forgotten about tosca over the past several months, so it was good on our return to find it thriving and in top form. the dining room is a bit staged, reminiscent of what you might see in a typical 30s hollywood movie with dick powell or myrna loy trading wisecracks with the waiter, without the dancing. the servers here are polished; knowledgeable and serious about the food; and one, at least, is a born entertainer.

the menu is far too extensive to adequately explore in one meal, and we received an invitation to return on monday. dinner for two was $220, but there is a pre-theatre menu. the couple at the table next to us looked like they were coming in at about half that cost; two tables away they were going for double.

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I woke up this morning with a craving for the Organic tomato marmalade sweet tart with ricotta-basil gelato and basil syrup. The sommeiller at Tosca told me she would get me the recipe last year and e-mail it to me. Iam still waiting... :lol:

Can anyone out there help in acquring this? I know they gave it out at the Arlington Farmers Market last summer, but I can't find it anywhere. Thanks all.

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Is the half-price pastas at the bar still in effect?  I'm thinking about going tomorrow before the U2 show...

Their pre-theater menu is amazing. I don't know if it's available at the bar, but before 7:00 pm, for $32 one can choose three courses - a pasta or salad, an entree and a dessert. And the choices come right off the regular menu. They will tell you that the portions are a bit smaller, but they are really ample. I recently had a chance to try out the silken crescents of braised goat and artichoke stuffed ravioli napped with a light fresh tomato sauce, followed by stuffed quail (same size as the regular menu - what are they gonna do, cut off a leg?) with mushrooms and kale in a black truffle sauce and finished up with the above mentioned tomato marmalade tarte with ricotta basil gelatto and basil puree. Washed down with a couple of glasses of Pinot Nero recommended by the knowledgeable waiter, and out the door in time for the show. And yes, Chef Lanfranconi was there, in person, toiling in the kitchen. It's not just the price that's amazing, the service, the wine list, the fresh ingredients, the plating, everything was top-notch.
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I had a very pleasant meal at Tosca last night at the bar, a great place to have a solo meal and read a brief (so as to not feel guilty about leaving work early). As per Don's suggestion, I went with the half-portions of pasta. What a great deal, especially for someone like me who prefers small plates over entrees. I started with the "squash gnocchi dumplings with melted, truffled imported fontina cheese sauce," which actually reminded me a lot of the richotta canardeli I had last week at Palena (probably because both are Italian dumplings?). The truffled cheese sauce was a perfect compliment to the squash dumplings, and the chives (I think?) sprinkled on top were great. I then ordered the lobster risotto, which was an extremely generous portion (I can't imagine eating the full portion). The dish was rich and really tasty, and the risotto was perfectly cooked. Way too full for dessert, but maybe next time.

It is a very elegant experience overall without being too stuffy (a feeling I have about the main dining room). The bartenders are friendly and the bread and olives are fantastic.

My husband works in the building and I told him that if this place was in MY building, I would definitely come down here on a regular basis for a relaxing meal without breaking the bank. (Hell, I don't work too far away so I will definitely file this place away for when he is working late.)

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Dora, did you notice if there was a "white truffle" tasting menu listed? I believe imports have started and Tosca has offered the menu in past years. Thanks in advance. -Gary

Hey Gary-- I don't know about the "tasting menu" per se, but the "white truffles" are in. The bartender informed me of a white truffle risotto ($70/$40, for half portion, I think) or a white truffle fettucine ($60). They come out and shave the truffles right on top (the woman next to me got the fettucine version).

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Last October I had an amazing White Truffle dinner at Tosca. It was primarily a wine dinner, but a number of white truffles sacrificed themselves for the cause. Here is my write-up from one of the other boards:

Last night I enjoyed an amazing white truffle dinner at Tosca. It was primarily held to highlight some great Italian wines (plus a Champagne). The dinner was not as over-the-top as the five-hour fourteen-course Lab blowout. But the food was just as memorable.

The night started with passed hors d'oeuvres and free flowing 1990 Charbaut Tete de Cuvee Champagne. The first bit of food to come around was a truffled veal tartare crostini. It was chopped veal, cracked black pepper, with white truffle oil and topped with shaving of white truffle. This was quite a way to start the evening. It was complex and very aromatic. The next morsel to come by was a fried truffled salted cod fritters. These were quite good, light and airy, and packed with cod flavor. These were also topped with white truffle shavings. The final treat to come by was fontina and sweet onion flan. I would call this custard rather than a flan, but amazing none the less. It was served in ceramic soupspoons, and again topped with shaved white truffles. The flan was a delightful mix of sweet onion, and a hint of cheese for body. The custard portion was perfectly prepared to be creamy, with no graininess. The Charbaut Tete Cuvee is wonderful champagne; it has a medium straw color, and a slight honeyed flavor, but not too much so.

The first course that we were served at the table was the classic scrambled eggs with truffles. Tosca’s version consisted of creamy scrambled eggs, layered into the shell with a castelmagno cheese fonduta, and then topped with crispy prosciutto and of course shaved white truffle on top. This was as good as Donna’s version of this classic preparation. I could eat this for breakfast every morning for the rest of my life and never get sick of it, with or without the truffle. The wine was a ’97 Rubino della Palazzola Super Tuscan blend of Merlot and Cabernet. It was a lively wine with a fruity nose and cherry palate. It was a very nice match for the eggs.

The second course was a chestnut soup with porcini mushrooms and roasted foie gras. This was a nice soup, creamy, and rich, the bowl also contained whole chestnuts, and was topped with generous amounts of white truffles that were shaved right at the table by Cesare, the chef. This was a good soup, but it needed a little sweetness to make it a great soup. All of the other elements were perfect; it just needed that little push to take it over the edge. It was wine for this was the ’97 Luce. On its own this wine was weak and very uninspiring, as most Mondavi wines have unfortunately become, however, with the soup it came to life and showed itself to be a very nice wine.

The chef left the room after blanketing everyone’s soup with truffles by saying, “I am off to make the risotto”, and so he was. When he returned it was with dishes of perfectly cooked Alba truffle risotto. The rice was tender, but not overly so, and had a creamy body, and a scattering of walnuts. Again the chef, this time joined by his partner Paolo covered by generous amounts of white truffles shaved tableside. The only issue I have with this dish is that I cannot eat it every night. It was so creamy, and rich, but not overpoweringly so. This course was served with two great wines, the ’97 La Poderina Brunello di Montalcino and the ’97 Banfi Poggio alle Murra. Both wines need four or five more years until they are ready, but they were both quite good, and were stark contrasts to one another. The La Poderina was a fruity wine, with lots of currants and cherry flavors. It has a smooth body, but you can tell that there is more to come. The Banfi was earthy on the nose and a little austere on its own, but opened-up delightfully so with the risotto. Parker wrote, “this wine lacks heart and soul”, and on its own, I would agree with him, too bad he did not have it with Cesare’s risotto.

The meat course was roasted Waygu beef with cardoons stew, truffled potato and Barolo sauce. Too bad I was so full by this point. The beef was perfectly seared on the outside and delightfully rare, but not raw on the inside. The pieces were sliced thin, and fanned above a dab of flavorful potato puree seasoned with truffle oil. One of the reasons that I so looked forward to this dish was to finally get a chance to try cardoons. I have never found them anywhere else, and I was not disappointed. Cardoons are a close relative of the artichoke, and they tasted like it, but they also had a hint of Vidalia onion flavor. I will look forward to eating them again in the future. Like the previous dishes this was covered with generous shavings of white truffles done tableside. Two wines were served with this dish. The first wine was an earthy ’97 Parusso Mariondino Barolo that also had a nice balanced structure and spice, black cherry and smoke. This wine needs another five to seven years before it is ready. The other wine was the ’97 Corino Barolo Vigneto Rocche. It was an extracted fruity wine, which matched perfectly with the beef and the truffles.

The final course was a cheese plate. It was head and shoulders above wheat we had gotten at the Lab blowout. It contained four pieces of cheese, some greens and bits of fruit preserved in syrup. The offerings were a fresh fig stuffed with Gorgonzola and roasted and then topped with aged Balsamico, a piece of Parmesan topped drizzled with truffle honey, an earthy washed rind cheese, and a soft cheese. Sorry, I did not get the names of the last two cheeses, I wish I had, they were marvelous. We enjoyed a glass of ’99 Allegrini Amorone with this course. The wine shows signs that it is going to be heaven in a bottle, but it still has many years to go until it is ready, and will be well deserving of the 95 points that Parker has bestowed upon it.

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My boss and I just got back from a nice lunch at Tosca. Given it's a federal holiday, the restaurant was pretty empty, service was very attentive, and food came quickly.

We each had the ridicchio and pear salad. The candied walnuts were a nice touch. The gorgonzola wasn't nearly strong enough, but I'm a huge stinky cheese fan, so the bar is kinda high for me. One odd item, however, was what was unmistakenly a canned pear. I'm a huge pear eater in the fall, and it seemed strange to have a canned pear during pear season. Not bad, mind you, but a little strange for Tosca.

I had the duck confit ravioli with foie gras sauce. This is one seriously addictive lunch pasta. Really good. Bossman had the leek soup which looked a little pasty. He ended up leaving half of it.

Dessert for me was the apple tart (a winner) and chocolate semifreddo for the boss. He enjoyed it.

Nice leisure lunch before we knock off early today. :lol:

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A January 2006 Restaurant Week Report: After experiencing 4 or 5 restaurant weeks in DC now, Tosca is the first place I've made a return visit to (during the promotion, that is). The reason: this has to be one of the greatest RW values out there. Like Corduroy, the only menu you're presented with is the special one, and everything is on it. You won't be treated any differently here because everyone is ordering from the same menu. In fact, only one item (the rack of veal) had an upcharge. The individual prices are listed for a la carte purposes, and I think the cheapest entree is $29. The individual prices for my three courses would have added up to $53 last night.

But on to the food. After a fantastic meal during the Summer '04 restaurant week, I was wondering if I'd be pressing my luck with another visit. I was not disappointed. In fact I used the "dine this week or miss out" aspect of the deal to lure some friends in who would otherwise never go, and they were most impressed.

Here's the menu: http://www.toscadc.com/Menu%20Page%202.htm

The list of appetizers is impressive. In addition to the simpler salads and soups, you'll find heartier fare like scallops and braised veal cheeks. And they'll let you take half orders of the pastas as your first course as well. My friend's delicious buckwheat tagliatelle was so rich and filling he could hardly finish the second course. I went with the veal cheeks and found myself wishing I were patient and competent enough to braise at home.

Tosca changes their menu a lot, and you'll almost never find the same things on there from season to season. However the one item that seems to remain is the mediterranean seabass with balasmic vinegar sabajon and pine nuts and raisins. On previous visits I shied away because I don't care for pine nuts and raisins, but last time I was there I had the pleasure of actually sampling the dish and knew I would enjoy it. The fish and almost sweet quality of the underlying sauces realy work well together. I will say that the portion size could have been a little bigger. I think I finished while my other friends were only half way through their entrees. The only other nitpick I had was the baked onion with gorgonzola that came with my companion's strip steak. It's a nice accent but became a little cloying by the end, since it was an entire half onion smothered in cheese. But to counter with a positive note, the other entree at the table, the swordfish puttanesca, contained probably the single most moist piece of fish I've ever tasted.

Desserts were a big hit, too. I fruity items in the dessert department so I went with the Meyer Lemon cake. Its velvety consistency and cheesecake-like texture kept my in the fruit realm but also gave me a taste of richer desserts. I was certainly scared by the description of the squash and apple strudel, but I sampled some and couldn't say a word against it. Kudos again to Tosca for once again bringing in unique ingredients to the dessert menu (like the tomato marmalade and basil gelatto) and making them work.

Service was quick, but we never felt rushed. Once dessert came, we took our time and the whole experience was pretty relaxing. And in closing I'll put in a plug for their pre-theater menu, which is pretty much the same three course deal for $32. The menu is only slightly smaller. I'm already thinking about going back to delve deep into the pastas.

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Tosca is always one of my favorite places for RW because they offer up almost the whole menu and I don't think the quality suffers unlike some other places. The friend I had dinner with commented that the interior resembled a cruise ship, lots of old people, kinda stuffy, but I'm only focused on food when I'm there so it doesn't really bother me.

Thanks to the Doctor for picking out the good stuff on the menu already. Loved the swordfish, and the squash and apple strudel. But I hear Cesare is going or gone so don't know what will happen after that....

Edited by gnatharobed
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The chef was in. Restaurant Week Friday night at Tosca was smooth and classy, and a massive contrast to the noisy hordes inhabiting every nook and cranny across the street at Oceanaire last night. [if any of those noisy hordes were rockweillers, I do not mean to impugn your manners or your good taste.] The food itself reflected a kitchen on auto pilot for the night, but I don’t think any of us were left complaining. Rockweillers RaisaB, JG, cjsadler, mdt, myself and +1’s took over one of the comfortable round tables for well over two hours without a hint of being rushed, and with gracious and attentive service. We noticed a slight lull around 8:45pm and the host explained that they made an effort to pace the reservations so they weren’t slammed all night.

After a brief wait at the bar, we were seated, and RaisaB and I both immediately ordered the tomato marmalade and basil tart for dessert, only to be met with the shockingly sad news that it is unavailable until next summer. :)

I think we all started with either the scallops or the veal cheeks. Correction: we all started with a toast to Rocks. The veal cheeks were meltingly tender and flavorful though not highly seasoned and haphazardly plated. For mains, the tiniest of our lot chose the gargantuan rack of veal, while several of us had swordfish, and others tried the risotto with black truffle and pork sausage, a pork t-bone, and possibly one other dish that escapes me. My sautéed swordfish was a rather small thin slab, but quite flavorful, with a small side of baked endive wrapped in crisp speck. Again, presentation was not as polished as I remember my former, non-Restaurant Week meal at Tosca. I tried the risotto – it of the crunchier variety, and loved it. Desserts – looked evenly split around the table – the meyer lemon cake, chocolate cake both lovely, very pretty, and I especially liked the toasted and spiced whole hazelnuts that were scattered around the chocolate cake. More care had been taken with the plating of desserts. Service was well-paced throughout the evening, with blips too minor to mention. Before and after dinner drinks and coffee, along with the wines, pushed the tab well (well) beyond Restaurant Week budgets. Funny how that happens… but it was a lively evening with friends, and I at least, left feeling we’d received what I had expected of a meal at Tosca on a Restaurant Week Friday night.

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Even though they didn't have the tomato tart, the chef's signature squash tart was delicious! It was really a wonderfully paced meal (it being RW and all) but the company was even more wonderful!

I agree with Ferhat though, I could eat their tomato tart 24/7!

Edited by RaisaB
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I’m not usually a big fan of chocolate, but dessert last night at Tosca has converted me. After my half-order of the rich and silky gnocchi in black truffle sauce, I scanned the dessert menu and ended up asking the bartender, Jay, which dessert he recommended. Without hesitation he suggested the “celebration cake”. The dessert is a miniature shaped cake of chocolate and hazelnut with a chocolate glaze and hazelnut crust served in a pool of chocolate sauce and topped with a small ball of chocolate hazelnut ice cream. One bite paired with a glass of 1997 Felsina Vin Santo and I was in heaven. It’s decadent, it’s velvety, it’s crunchy, and oh so chocolaty. If you love chocolate (and even if you don't), this dessert is for you.

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I have been doing low carb for the last two weeks and have reservations at Tosca tomorrow night to spend those carbs.

I know they have just changed to the spring menu. I think that Cesare is away, but I have always heard that his staff does a great job whether he is there or not.

Would you recommend the tasting menu or order by the entree? If I do by the entre will they do the 1/2 portions so I can order more or is that only at the bar?

I am thinking my own tasting menu - Fois Gras, Risotto, Pasta, Dessert. Do you think they would put that together for me?

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I have never been disappointed when I have ordered the tasting menu, but I decide whether to choose it once I see what is on it, and what the rest of the menu has to offer. Without knowing those two things, I think it is impossible to recommend one over the other.

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Went last night and Chef Cesare was not in house. His staff did not disappoint.

They do change the menu often so a dish or two that I was hoping for they were not serving. They will also serve anything off of the tasting menu ala carte. Their portion sizes are more than fair. We shared all of the items below and neither of us went hungry.

Fois Gras - Roasted foie gras with rhubarb, morel mushrooms and aged balsamic vinegar The presentation allowed for the rhubarb to blend with the fois gras while the mushrooms were offset with the balsamic vinegar. Extremely rich and pleasing.

Risotto - Risotto with pecorino cheese, morel mushrooms and black truffle. Totally melted in my mouth.

Pasta - Fresh tagliatelle noodles with a Mallard duck ragu, sautéed black trumpet mushrooms and imported Castelmagno cheese. This was cooked to perfection all of the flavors blended perfectly.

Dessert - Classic profiteroles stuffed with espresso gelato and warm chocolate-espresso sauce and toasted almonds. This was the only not off of the chart dish of the night. The espresso gelato was a little overpowering. It may have also been that we were looking for something a little lighter. They had ran out of the strawberry cobbler with cream and I was looking forward to that dessert. The manager even came over and aplogized that they were of the strawberry.

Service was excellent. We were seated in a nice quiet corner and were able to have a comfortable conversation without screaming.

Tosca will never be confused with cheap eats, but I felt that it was very fair for the caliber of food and service. The bill ran just over $100 plus tip but remember we did not have any wine, just coffee with dessert.

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We had forgot how nice Tosca is. We went this evening anticipating the artichoke tasting menu. The server warned us away from it because in his view it did not meet Tosca's high standards. He did, however, recommend the taglierini with lobster and artichokes that was on the artichoke tasting menu, so we constructed a meal around it. Asparagus soup with crab was outstanding; the taglierini with lobster stood up to its high-praise billing; and an almond-encrusted halibut served on a bed of fava bans (love those favas) was terrific. A bottle of greco di tufo had enough body to go with everything, including the sorbet selection (pear, rasberry, mango) for dessert. Great food. outstanding service; generous but not obscene portions; good seating and ambience despite a full room. We definitely have to go there more often.

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We had dinner at Tosca on Saturday, to take advantage of their "Dine at Dusk" pre-fixe (see below), which has a very generous offering of selections for each course (ala their usual Restaurant Week treatment). The smoked mozarella ravioli I had to start with were excellent, and though the veal cheeks that followed were good, I wish I'd gone with another pasta course-- it's definitely what Tosca does best. Get the strawberry "streusel" for dessert if they have it-- though strawberries aren't quite in season yet, roasting really made them very flavorful.

Dine at Ristorante Tosca in April to support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Throughout April, Tosca will donate 10% of your "Dine at Dusk" Meal to benefit the Society's mission: cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

Named Washington DC's Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year, Tosca is the perfect spot for elegant downtown dining. In close proximity to many evening entertainment venues, diners can enjoy a three-course dining experience in about an hour for $32 with Tosca's new "Dine at Dusk" menu. Nightly from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., select from 23 choices on Chef Cesare Lanfranconi's award-winning northern Italian menu offerings.

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Anyone know if Cesare is still actively working there? I have heard many rumors to the contrary.
I believe the last few times I've been there, Massimo has been helming the kitchen. Despite this, I haven't really seen a decline in the food (a quick note - I usually only order an appetizer, a half order of pasta, and dessert at the bar so my comment doesn't really apply to entrees). I recently had a delicious appetizer of snail croquettes served with a celery root sauce, a drizzle of reduced balsamic, and tart microgreens.
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This place doesn't generate much chatter on the board and I'm not sure why, maybe because it's overpriced? We went Friday for their pre-theater deal, 35 bucks for 2 courses plus dessert. This is a great deal especially with a $30 bottle of Barbera. I doubled up on the pasta courses: papardelle w/ rabbit and agnollotti filled with aged ricotta and raisins. Both were excellent, especially the second which tastes a lot better than it sounds. Dessert was unremarkable. Service was very formal--not really my thing, but they do it well.

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I don't think I've ever walked into Tosca and not seen Jay Villegas tending bar. Jay is truly one the great bartenders in this town - he knows wine, he knows the menu inside-and-out, and he's always out for the diner to have a great meal. He works every evening Monday through Friday.

If you want to treat Tosca as an expense-account restaurant, then I can't help you, because it's just not the way I view it. I always sit at the bar there, walking away delighted each time, and here's why:

First of all, there's an amuse-gueule, tonight a trio of fried squash blossoms, admittedly bitter and not terribly hot, but still - it's a little something from the kitchen that starts the meal off on the right foot. And the bread basket is still half-filled with good focaccia (along with mediocre bread) - tonight some were onion, others tomato. So far this meal hasn't cost a dime.

You can spend big bucks here, but I never do, since I always go for half-orders of pasta at the bar. Raviolini ($11) stuffed with local organic tomato pulp, served with a fresh basil-pesto sauce, was just the right thing to take you into September, and Risotto ($15) with fresh thyme, shaved Parmesan, and two slices of Luganega sausage was perfectly executed, just as every risotto from Tosca always is.

The pastry chef has been in Italy for a two-week vacation, but I still had to try one of my favorite desserts: the Sweet Tomato Marmalade Tart ($10) with organic basil ice cream and basil syrup. The execution suffered from the absence of Mateo, but it was still a very good dessert in the grand scheme of things.

So there's your three-course, $36 dinner at Tosca. Or, you could get table service and choose a six-course Menu Gran Degustazione for $95 ($160 with wine pairings), but why on earth would you?

Happy as a clam,

Rocks.

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I have been to Tosca a few times in the past, but it has been so long, that I can't accurately compare my experiences from before with my experience last night other than to say that it is damn good every single time that I have been there!

I agree with Don, sitting at the bar is a great alternative to dropping an arm and a leg in the dining room, but if you get there early, before 7:00 PM, like we did last night on our way to see Avenue Q, the pre-theater menu is a huge treat. $35 for three courses is always great, but it becomes even better when you realize that there are a good number of choices to choose from and the portion sizes are all rather large. We had a bunch of things at our table for 5 people...

- Chestnut soup with a timbale of Porcini mushroom and ricotta cheese with crispy pancetta

- Salad of radicchio and Bartlett pears with imported Gorgonzola cheese terrine and toasted walnuts

- Traditional buckwheat tagliatelle, with Swiss chard, potatoes, fresh sage and aged cow cheese melted with roasted garlic

- Carrot flavored pappardelle with a rabbit ragu in a white wine sauce and fresh thyme

- Ravioli filled with roasted veal and prosciutto with a red wine reduction, butter, fresh sage and Parmesan cheese

- Spoon shaped Kabocha squash dumplings on top of a truffled Parmesan cheese sauce, brown butter and fried sage

- Risotto with imported black truffle, fresh thyme, shaved Parmesan cheese and Luganega sausage

- Grilled pork tenderloin in a rosemary and Porcini mushroom crust with olive oil poached artichokes, sautéed black kale and Black truffle sauce

- Chef’s modernized tiramisu with cold mascarpone cream, espresso soaked cake and warm cappuccino zabaglione

- Vanilla gelato

- Choclate and hazlenut custard (very flan like)

In general, the food was excellent. The pappardelle was the winner for the appetizer course and the ravioli was the best of the entrees. While I am bored with tiramisu and never order it these days, it was wonderful and the dessert that everyone was fighting over. The only miss, and it was a pretty big miss, was the squash dumplings. We loved the concept, which is why we ordered it, but it amounted to nothing more than balls of mashed squash with little flavor, it would have been much better if more body was given to it, but it fell flat. But, honestly, it was easy to get over, the other 10 dishes were wonderful.

The service was solid, very efficient, which we needed because we were headed to the theater, but not pushy at all. The only thing that was missing was explanations of the amuse bouche, bread basket and little bites after dessert. They were just plopped on the table, it would have been nice to know that the amuse bouche was a tuna tartar or what the three breads were (we never got an answer to that one) or what type of bark (white chocolate with peppermint) and biscotti we got. We didn't order this stuff, so we had to do a bit of guessing. But, the be fair, we got all this free stuff, including some great salami and olives that I ate at the bar while waiting for everyone else, so it is just being picky.

Overall, Tosca is a place that people should visit again, it never disappoints. Find a show at the National or Warner Theater, make a 6:00 reservation at the restaurant, drop your car of at their valet for only $5 (much cheaper than any garage around there), enjoy the $35 pre-theater menu, walk two blocks to to see the show and come back and pick up your car. It is easily a recipe for success.

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I have been to Tosca a few times in the past, but it has been so long, that I can't accurately compare my experiences from before with my experience last night other than to say that it is damn good every single time that I have been there!

I agree with Don, sitting at the bar is a great alternative to dropping an arm and a leg in the dining room, but if you get there early, before 7:00 PM, like we did last night on our way to see Avenue Q, the pre-theater menu is a huge treat. $35 for three courses is always great, but it becomes even better when you realize that there are a good number of choices to choose from and the portion sizes are all rather large. We had a bunch of things at our table for 5 people...

- Chestnut soup with a timbale of Porcini mushroom and ricotta cheese with crispy pancetta

- Salad of radicchio and Bartlett pears with imported Gorgonzola cheese terrine and toasted walnuts

- Traditional buckwheat tagliatelle, with Swiss chard, potatoes, fresh sage and aged cow cheese melted with roasted garlic

- Carrot flavored pappardelle with a rabbit ragu in a white wine sauce and fresh thyme

- Ravioli filled with roasted veal and prosciutto with a red wine reduction, butter, fresh sage and Parmesan cheese

- Spoon shaped Kabocha squash dumplings on top of a truffled Parmesan cheese sauce, brown butter and fried sage

- Risotto with imported black truffle, fresh thyme, shaved Parmesan cheese and Luganega sausage

- Grilled pork tenderloin in a rosemary and Porcini mushroom crust with olive oil poached artichokes, sautéed black kale and Black truffle sauce

- Chef’s modernized tiramisu with cold mascarpone cream, espresso soaked cake and warm cappuccino zabaglione

- Vanilla gelato

- Choclate and hazlenut custard (very flan like)

In general, the food was excellent. The pappardelle was the winner for the appetizer course and the ravioli was the best of the entrees. While I am bored with tiramisu and never order it these days, it was wonderful and the dessert that everyone was fighting over. The only miss, and it was a pretty big miss, was the squash dumplings. We loved the concept, which is why we ordered it, but it amounted to nothing more than balls of mashed squash with little flavor, it would have been much better if more body was given to it, but it fell flat. But, honestly, it was easy to get over, the other 10 dishes were wonderful.

The service was solid, very efficient, which we needed because we were headed to the theater, but not pushy at all. The only thing that was missing was explanations of the amuse bouche, bread basket and little bites after dessert. They were just plopped on the table, it would have been nice to know that the amuse bouche was a tuna tartar or what the three breads were (we never got an answer to that one) or what type of bark (white chocolate with peppermint) and biscotti we got. We didn't order this stuff, so we had to do a bit of guessing. But, the be fair, we got all this free stuff, including some great salami and olives that I ate at the bar while waiting for everyone else, so it is just being picky.

Overall, Tosca is a place that people should visit again, it never disappoints. Find a show at the National or Warner Theater, make a 6:00 reservation at the restaurant, drop your car of at their valet for only $5 (much cheaper than any garage around there), enjoy the $35 pre-theater menu, walk two blocks to to see the show and come back and pick up your car. It is easily a recipe for success.

I agree. I really felt content after two dinners at Tosca in the month of November. I, too, had a pre-theater dinner before enjoying the entertaining "Avenue Q" at the National Theater, and on a separate night dived into a 6-course dinner with wine pairings. The wines were superb. The wine list and recommendations by the staff deserve to be recognized. My faves are the oyster with sea urchin stew, crab risotto, tagliatelle with Swiss chard/potatoes/fresh sage/aged cheese, and trio Gorgonzola ice cream three ways with candied pears, braised fennel and sweet celery dessert. Buon appetito!

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Dined at Tosca on Saturday this past weekend and had another great meal. The oyster and sea urchin stew was fantastic and much lighter than I anticipated, although I might have preferred it merely as sea urchin stew without the addition of the oysters. The highlight of the meal was the John Dory. A very light and buttery fish. The sauce did not overwhelm the fish, as I'm frequently finding the case at many restaurants, but rather served as a nice accompaniment. Other entrees at my table included the butternut squash ravioli and the black truffle risotto -- both excellent as well. The service was excellent and the recommendation of a Barbera satisfied all. If you haven't been lately, I'd make a point to visit. The current menu is outstanding.

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"Ravioli filled with roasted veal and prosciutto with a red wine reduction, butter, fresh sage and Parmesan cheese"

Had this two weeks ago along with one of their fish-ravioli specials. While the fish was extremely fresh and very good, the veal/prosciutto was one of the best pasta dishes I've ever had. The sauce was fantastic, rich but not heavy. Everything they served was perfect.

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Linguini with a seafood assortment in a lightly spicy tomato sauce

This description, while accurate, does not really do this dish justice. It sounds relatively simple but the bowl we received was so well executed and had a nice variety of complimentary flavors. We asked for it extra spicy and Massimo walked out to the kitchen to ask us how spicy we wanted it. We gave him direction (spicy, but not so hot that you can't taste the tomatoes) and he managed to get it exactly how we hoped it would be. The seafood assortment is very generous, with an almost equal distribution of mussels, calamari, and shrimp to the amount of pasta.

Also second the recommendation for the veal and prosciutto ravioli. Creamy and buttery without a taste of grease or oil.

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Why don't we talk more about Tosca? Are that many people turned off by the high prices? I can understand being reluctant to shell out $75-90 on a prix fixe menu on a regular basis, but Rocks laid out how to do Tosca at lunch or for a fair priced dinner and still leave full. Also, as mentioned above, their "Dine at Dusk" pre-theater deal is a steal at $35, and is even more admirable now that they are donating 10% of every meal to "Food and Friends", a local charity that delivers meals to less fortunate individuals.

We were naturally excited about RW at Tosca because it gave us a chance to move away from the Rockwellian approach to trying some of the main courses without shelling out too much cash. Our fervor was quelled a bit when we saw that the spicy seafood linguine was not on the menu and, Jay regrettably informed us, would not be available for substitution. My fiancee pouted for a couple seconds, but this turned out to be a good thing as it forced us to try a few different things.

First Courses:

Nantucket bay scallops and baby octopus warm salad on top of shaved fennel, diced potatoes and Swiss chard sauce was a great starter, light while carrying plenty of substance. The thimble sized scallops were perfectly textured, remaining firm without turning into chewy little balls. The baby octopus were diced into tiny pieces and were cooked but again not so chewy that it threw off the overall soft texture of the dish. The Swiss chard sauce was good enough to sop up with the onion foccacia, and the delicious olives scattered through the dish were a tasty surprise.

Half moon shaped pasta filled with olive poached grouper, brown butter caper sauce, toasted almond, fried capers and fresh marjoram would have been a great pasta dish with a little fresh ground pepper and some parmesan, but it was my fault for not flagging Jay down to get this before devouring my half sized portion. The ravioli were tightly packed with the moist grouper, whose texture worked in perfect unison with the al dente cooked pasta shell in which it was encased. The brown butter caper sauce and fried capers gave the dish most of its flavor, a lightly salty sauce that also needed to be sopped up with the foccacia.

Mains:

Risotto with 30 month old organic Parmesan cheese with lemon juice and parsley pine nut pesto was the best risotto dish I have had in recent memory, although it might have been better as a half portion because the full size was too heavy for any normal human being to finish. This 10 lb bowl of cream, rice, parmesan, and pesto oil is ideal comfort food; salty, buttery, cheesy, and enough to drown any hangover. My fiancee aptly named this dish "Artery Clog", but I have to say that I was happy to scarf down as much of this as I could (less than half the plate).

Roasted Mediterranean sea bass with a balsamic vinegar sabajon and sautéed spinach with pine nuts and raisins was the exact opposite in terms of density and flavor of my entree. It was light, tangy, sweet, and wonderful. The pieces of skin-on sea bass were small and just slightly overcooked, but were an otherwise outstanding plate. The bed of spinach and pine nuts upon which the fish rested provided more moisture and some substance to the dish, meshing quite well with the flaky sea bass.

Dessert:

Vanilla flavored panna cotta with almond milk sauce, toasted almond and milk foam was surprisingly light for such a lactose-tolerant dessert. The vanilla flavor was faint but most definitely present, and while this didn't compare to my fiancee's dessert, it was actually a nice finish after the heavy risotto.

Dark warm chocolate cake with bittersweet chocolate ice cream and kumquat compote was heavenly. They were out of the white chocolate cake that was on the menu, but it would be hard to imagine that it was better than this secondary option that we were offered. Rich, not too sweet chocolate cake liquid pours out of the crisp exterior when you dig in for your first bite, oozing out onto the plate and mixing quite well with the ice cream and compote. Not quite as good as the incredible chocolate cake we had at Mendocino on NYE, but not that far behind either.

This restaurant, which is usually dismissed as being overpriced, is ironically the best deal in town for the quality through January 20. We paid $99 including tax for 6 courses of great food, a half bottle of a nice Chianti, and excellent service from Jay and Massimo, who greeted us from the kitchen at the end of our meal. After telling him how excellent the food was, we admitted that we were a little disappointed by the omission of the seafood linguine from the RW menu. He told us to wait for a few minutes at the bar and reappeared with a to-go container of the pasta made extra spicy for my fiancee. How can you beat this kind of service from a busy chef who had just gone through the first hectic night of Restaurant Week? You can't, in my opinion, and that is why you should go out and support this great chef and restaurant.

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Anyone here been recently and have reccs off their current menu?
Headed to Tosca tonight, and am already (of course) attempting to strategically plan out my order for maximum gustatory pleasure... ohmy.gif)

The rabbit papardelle is really good. Their stuffed pastas are excellent as well.

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