They say that when you hear people speaking the same language of the restaurant's food that means that the locals trust it's good. Here we are at Toscana 21, located near the central district of Brussels, a small place that just exudes "Italy". Italian music, an Italian spirit and Italian staff serving Italian cuisine.
This family-run restaurant provides truly authentic Tuscan food in a cozy environment. Perfect for families, the convivial setting matches the superior quality of ingredients. Tucked away in a small alleyway, only a 15-minute walk from Central Station, Toscana 21 remains unpretentious and is a hidden gem. For homemade pastas and a back-to-basics meal of real Tuscan cooking, check out Toscana 21 for some of the best Italian food in Brussels.
The door opened to small rectangular space covered with wood panels on the floor, walls painted in orange, wooden tables and red chairs with a bar at the end facing a brick covered wall. A station in the middle displays Italian spirits like grappa and Limoncello.
Yellow placemats cover the tables and you can play some games to make time pass quickly. You start having fun before you even ordering.
The little details I liked:
- Italian music plays in the background.
- The menus are special, stickers on a painted wooden board. A small menu mainly based on pasta and salads.
- A blackboard lands on the table so you can discover the specials.
- Testaroli pasta al ragu
- Tagliatelle with black ink squid
- Roast beef alla florentina
- Pollo al Marsala (chicken with sweet wine)
Before we start:
- This is not a fancy restaurant or a place known by tourists. It's an Italian restaurant for local Italians and coming here is a guaranteed experience.
- Things are very casual, there's no fancy menu, no waiters with professional outfits, but a relaxed feel of an Italian street style restaurant.
Tonight's wine is Il Macchione, vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2007. A strong yet flavorful full-bodied wine with lightly acidic notes, strongly aromatic.
Dinner was served:
- Food is served in a homey way. Porcelain plates decorated like my grandma used to do generously filled with your meal.
- Thick slices of tomato topped with thick slices of mozzarella cheese alongside shredded lettuce.
- A plate of cold cuts, carefully chosen and not the ones you simply find at the supermarket, served with cheese and a raspberry jam. Wild pig salami, mortsdellino and pecorino cheese.
- The Caesar salad is different from any I have had to date. No mayonnaise, no anchovies and no garlic, but chunks of chicken battered and fried, served hot with tomatoes and lettuce in a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing.
- Along with the salad came a plate of grilled vegetables in olive oil served cold and crunchy, but very tasty.
- The starters were excellent, a great first impression.
Open for the last decade, this Italian restaurant is known to receive some tourists and many well-known locals and Italians. I was very happy to have the chance to try it.
Main plates landed on the table:
- Huge portions of different kinds of pasta. Tagliatelle with squid ink served in a paper wrap and a load of seafood.
- The special pasta ragu, thick slices of pasta -more like a thick chewy crepe cut in squres- with their sauce, was bizarre. The sauce is exquisite but the pasta used is too bulky. Thick slices of pasta cut in squares mixed in the sauce. Very fulfilling, but heavy in the stomach. Not my favorite.
- The carbonara was well cooked and generous but lacked flavor; it's too dull. As for the penne arabiata, it's superb. Overall, I like the spirit and flavors, with a little fine tuning, for example the pasta could be served al dente, would make it pefect.
Homey Italian cuisine, that's what the place is all about.
- The desserts were new in my book. Crunchy almond biscuits served with sweet wine. Leave the biscuits in the liquid for a minute to absorb the wine and enjoy, simple yet tasty and unique.
- Cialda di Montecatini is a brioche, a crunchy biscuitm, like the ones we have at church, offered with whipped cream. Lovely! A thin double-layered airy biscuit with a nice sweetness, but wait until you've dipped it in the cream; a successful combination.
I enjoyed tonight's dinner and surely recommend the place, its special cuisine and Italian spirit.