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Toto, the latest Italian restaurant to open its doors in Mar Mikhael. Replacing my favorite Chez Sophie restaurant, Toto welcomes Italian food aficionados into a cozier 50's ambiance in a trendy modern setup, all within a preserved authentic Lebanese house. TOTO is a fine Italian restaurant and pizzeria – something never seen before in Lebanon.
Toto is managed by Samir Tabet, Sophie Tabet's brother and hosted by Antonio Tolva, a famous Pizzaiolo who won the European championship a couple of years ago. The same management and staff of Chez Sophie are there to welcome you into the new place. Of course the experience is different. Chez Sophie was more of a fine dining restaurant, which in my opinion deserved a Michelin star, while Toto is a trattoria where everything is supposed to be relaxed. Walk in, don't compare the place to Chez Sophie so you're not disappointed - erase and restart.
Trattoria: is an Italian-style eating establishment, less formal than a ristorante, but more formal than an osteria. There are generally no printed menus, the service is casual, wine is sold by the decanter rather than the bottle, prices are low, and the emphasis is on a steady clientele rather than on haute cuisine. The food is modest but plentiful and in some instances is even served family-style.
The person behind the TOTO: Prince Antonio Focas Flavio Angelo Ducas Comneno De Curtis di Bisanzio Gagliardi, best known by his stage name Totò or as Antonio De Curtis, and nicknamed il principe della risata (“the prince of laughter”), was an Italian comedian, film and theatre actor, writer, singer and songwriter. He is widely considered one of the greatest Italian artists of the 20th century. While he first gained his popularity as a comic actor, his dramatic roles, his poetry, and his songs are all deemed to be outstanding; his style and a number of his recurring jokes and gestures have become universally known memes in Italy.
- 50's ambiance
- Interesting combination of black and white fabrics on chairs
- Three wine coolers to the right next to the entrance
- A long bar welcomes you
- The main pizza oven behind it
- White wooden tables
- Grey tiles floor
- Two big round tables and some other square ones
- Plastic place mats following the black notes of the place
- The walls decorated with black and white vinyl panels
- Two black chandeliers
- Photographs of Toto and the old Italian cinema age decorate the walls
- The same old Lebanese arcade house classy feel
- Oval plates, thin stainless cutlery and beautiful Stolzle wine glasses
Antonio Tolva, award winning pizzaiolo is bringing the first stone bake pizza oven to Lebanon, which is expected to revolutionize the industry.
The menu sections:
- Per Stuzzicare
- Pizze Tradizionale
- Pizze Creativa
- Primi Piatti
- Diavola Pizza: Sauce Tomate, Mozzarella, Jambon De Parme
- Lebanese Pizza: Accaoui, Olives Vertes, Onions Verts, Pourpier
- Caprese Bufalina, Burratina Salad: Mozzarella De Bufflonne Ou Burrata, Tomates Cerises, Basilic Frais
- Insalata Di Verdure Alla Griglia E Croccanti: Salafe De Legumes Grilles Et Croquants Marines
- Cuore Di Carciofi Farciti Di Fave E Purea Di Piselli: Coeurs D'artichauts Farcis De Feves, Puree De Petits Pous Mentholes
- Risotto Ai Frutti Di Mare E Zafferano: Risotto Aux Fruits De Mer Et Safran
- Risotto Al Pomodoro E Mascarpone Al Olive Nero: Risotto A La Tomate, Mascarpone Et Olives Noires
- Risotto Al Tartufo Nero: Risotto A La Truffe Noire
- Tagliata Di Manzo, Rucola, Scaglie Di Parmigiano E Pomodoro: Entrecote Grillee, Roquette, Tomates Cerises, Copeaux De Parmesan
- Linguini Ai Gamberi E Zucchini: Linguine Aux Gambas Et Courgettes
Al Piatto, Al Metro: Choose any pizza you want and it will be served 1 meter long shape for only $50.
- Pizza is the real Italian without any Mediterranean twist. Tasty but bizarre. It is not the one we know in Lebanon, and surely not the one we are used of having. The dough is thick, firm and harder to chew than average and the fillings are not as generous as you might imagine. It's not my favorite. We Lebanese prefer it thinner, crunchier and filled more generously with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. A must try anyway.
- The Lebanese pizza on another hand is close to perfect. Adding Accaoui cheese and purslane is a premiere in town
- The mozzarella salad is simple yet tasty. I liked it
- The crunchy fresh vegetables salad is unique. Good to be served in a fine dining restaurant
- The artichoke salad ordered by three of us was appreciated by all. You feel the freshness of the ingredients to the max
- The tomato risotto which I personally ordered is not my favorite. I had to exchange the plate with my wife's Linguini pasta even though it lacked some seasoning
- Seafood risotto is as good as it used to be at Chez Sophie. Impeccable!
- The black truffle risotto is the best dish they produce
- Meringa Italiana, Coulis De Fragole
- Fondante Al Cioccolato
- Pain Perdu
This was my least favorite part of the evening. I think it's because, the same exact desserts were served at Chez Sophie and they used to taste much better. The Pain Perdu which used to be my favorite is dry, the fondant is fine and the meringue is half empty from the inside looking less appetizing. I expected more!
The details I like:
- Zejd olive oil, Toto special edition bottles
- The wine service is awesome: We ordered two different wines and discretely, the glasses were changed according to the wine requirements. The small ones were changed to wider and larger glasses. The light 2007 wine requires smaller glasses while the 2004 Cabernet needs more breathing.
- A certain finesse haunts the air, nothing to be compared to any Italian trattoria in town
- Toto stands out to be in the middle between the average Italian places and the couple fine dining ones
What I didn't like:
- Service needs more fine tuning. You feel the tension of the staff and the fact that they are overwhelmed, running around in all directions like headless chickens
- The place is way too noisy. Really unacceptable
- I received a broken plate. Unacceptable from such a restaurant
- I expected more from the food
- We asked to be seated on the side round table but unfortunately were given the worst table in the restaurant: The middle one.
Important fixes to be done:
- The NOISE! Please. Find a solution. The easiest thing to be done is to change the Vinyl panels and replace them with fabric ones that absorbs sounds and echoes. On another hand, keep the music off as it adds more chaos to the ambiance
- The additional table in the middle of the restaurant has to be removed. We were seated on it by mistake and spent the whole night pushing people off our shoulders. Since the restaurant is always full and surely profitable, the least you can do is make the ambiance more relaxed. This bulky centerpiece must be removed
A nice place, a new idea, fine food and an overall professional approach. I honestly expected more or maybe it's because I am comparing it to Chez Sophie. I would have to visit it again and give you my final verdict.