Freddie (né Alfredo), owner of Toscanini on Main Street, said, "My dream was to have a place where people could go for an everyday dinner, not just for special occasions." In our opinion, he has succeeded remarkably. On a recent cold Sunday night, the restaurant, which opened on Nov. 15, was filled with families and friends enjoying good food in an attractive, comfortable, environment. One diner commented, "This is what the community is looking for - good food, moderate prices, and generous servings."
Toscanini offers a full menu, supplemented with daily specials. Upon being seated, the diner is offered a basket of home-baked rolls and focaccia.
To begin, we sampled the torte di verde, an interesting lasagna-like dish with layers of mozzarella and fresh vegetables, including asparagus, peppers and eggplant. It can be ordered hot or cold. Our party quickly devoured another spectacular appetizer -- lightly fried buffalo mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto di Parma served in a lemon and white wine sauce. Comments from our dinner companions included: "Magnificent. Sensational. The best thing I've had in a long time." The polenta with shitake mushrooms was flavorful and delicious, as were the escargots with butter, oil and garlic. Other appetizer offerings include a cold seafood salad, stuffed artichoke, and grilled calamari.
Toscanini's menu includes a variety of hearty soups. The night we dined the special was escarole and bean; another evening that we visited it was pasta e fagiole. The salads are all made with fresh ingredients. We tried the red leaf salad with pears, walnuts and gorgonzola; it was delicious.
For the main event, our party ordered two fish and two chicken dinners. The fish is very fresh - Freddie said that it is delivered daily, including Sundays. The crumb-coated red snapper was served in a white wine sauce. The tilapia came in a delicious, light red sauce accompanied by small mussels and clams. (Toscanini's sauces are outstanding; that seems to be a specialty of the house.) The chicken Anthony, a breast of chicken topped with eggplant, roasted peppers, and mozzarella in a light brown sauce, was outstanding. The chicken Caprese made with tomato and mozzarella was succulent and tender. Both the fish and chicken dishes were cooked "just right." The broccoli rabe with oil and garlic was a perfect accompaniment to the main course.
As one might expect, there is a good selection of pasta, all of which are available as appetizers for half price. For the health-conscious, the restaurant will soon be offering whole wheat pasta. For children, Toscanini will prepare a simple pasta, homemade pizza, French fries, or chicken.
The desserts were delicious. "The best tiramisu I've ever eaten," commented one of our dinner companions. The canolli was as good as I remember from the Bleecker Street bakeries. An unusual and very rich dessert was the chocolate polenta. Other offerings include tartufo, chocolate mousse cheesecake, and Italian cheesecake. To accompany your dessert, you can choose from a variety of international coffees or after-dinner drinks. Trattoria has a complete list of good quality wines, with prices mostly from $20 to just under $40.
Freddie takes pride in the fact that, although tasty, his dishes are simple. He said, "My father told me, 'once you put it in, you can't take it out.'"
The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, with wall murals lending a touch of Tuscany. The service was cordial and attentive.
Prior to opening Toscanini, Freddie had many years in the restaurant business; most recently he was a manger for 10 years at Dimaggio's on the Bay. (This restaurant is on the site of another Dimaggio's restaurant- Il Forno, and has been completely renovated.) Freddie said that he has accumulated a collection of over 5,000 recipes from which he chooses the best for the restaurant. Freddie, who originated in Italy and lived in Croatia, acknowledged his brother Rudy, who works alongside him in the restaurant, as well as José Majano, the executive chef and the two assistant chefs. In explaining the restaurant's name, Freddie, who loves classical music, said, "I don't think anyone deserves more respect than Arturo Toscanini. He was an immigrant who came to the United States and became famous."
Toscanini, which is located at 179 Main Street, is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. They open at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday and are open till 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Sunday hours are 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.. Entrées range from about $16 to $30 for dinner and $10 to $15 for lunch; pasta is around $15. Takeout, catering, and free delivery are available. For reservations (we recommend them on the weekend) call 516-944-0755.