Let me tell you a little secret... this is actually my first time at The Village Dbayeh, where a cluster of restaurants and pubs are hosted, and Toto is one of them. I like Toto after trying the one in Beirut, so trying its second branch in Lebanon was inevitable. In a nutshell Toto in The Village serves awesome food, but there’s a lot that needs to be improved.
Toto, famous in Beirut for being located in an old house, delicious pizza and exquisite pasta, receives its clientele in Dbayeh around a trendy, well-lit setup. The menu is close enough to the one in Beirut, but the décor makes all the difference.
A high ceiling, green wine bottles cover the walls, modern plastic chairs and bi-colored square tables with a big open bar where the pizza oven can be seen preparing those round crunchy pizzas. I loved the black pipes as shelves, the ceiling of mirrors, the long bench and paintings that add life to the walls. White and well-lit with a dark floor, Toto manages to create a trendy Italian the young and old will appreciate.
On the menu: Gluten-free pizzas, bruschetta, fried preparations, cold cuts and cheeses, Carpaccio, antipasti, salads, pasta, risotto, lunch menu, main platters and side orders.
Dinner usually starts with a basket of salted focaccia, water bottles, and olive oil by Zejd, sea salt and hot spices. You'll enjoy the bread, it's thin and crunchy with an enjoyable salty finish.
With Italian music playing in the background we were approached for the order, which was taken on an iPad.
But before dinner starts, let's talk about the staff...
What needs immediate attention... the unacceptable:
- Six or seven waiters walk around, all dressed unprofessionally and different to each other. Some are wearing black t-shirts, while others are in white, some are in black jeans, and others in colored shoes, some even have their underwear showing… It took me some time to understand that the staff inside wear black and the ones outside wear white.
- Let's describe one: unbuttoned shirt, long hair, Converse, a pen or wallet appearing in the back pocket... help me understand something; is this an attempt to be stylish or a way of not paying for uniforms? Clothes are unacceptably cheap. Only the manager was wearing a white shirt.
- They all seem unprofessional, lack any kind of manners and have no idea what they are doing or saying. Yes, they don’t know how to communicate with customers. It's unacceptable.
- Their manager, on the other hand, is the only professional man around. He was trying to make things happen with a smile on his face. He attended to the smallest of our requests with such class.
- Noise, lots of noise: loud music, clumsy staff, annoying noises coming from the kitchen, breaking plates, a grinder, people shouting... noise is dramatically bad and makes you want to run out and never come back.
If this is a fine Italian restaurant and if this is the same company that owns the Toto in Beirut, is this the Toto we know?
- The pizza is breathtaking. The super thin dough is so light yet so crunchy, a fresh pizza with plenty of sauce and plenty ingredients, a crust with bite, a super taste... surely one of the best pizzas in town, part of Top3 for sure. Tomato and ham with fresh mushrooms for the first one and truffles for the second. Two thumbs up for such a marvelous pizza.
- Asparagus risotto with black truffle and Parma ham chips. A generous portion of risotto mixed with slices of asparagus, cooked al dente and covered with ham chips. Rich aromas, a hard textured rice, salty notes that the Parma ham provides, a faded crunch... it's Italian fine dining indeed.
Food is indeed amazing, the pizzas and risotto I had are really memorable and the salads my family ordered were great. After the starters came the main plates.
- Rigatoni with eggplant, burrata mozzarella, black olives and basil leaves. Real Italian quality, adequately al dente, a unique acidic tomato sauce, enjoyable eggplant cut in cubes, tender black olives and a chunk of mozzarella on top. It's excellent!
- The Bolognese spaghetti with mini ground beef is as good as the one I have at home. I loved the color of the tomato sauce. It's recommended!
- Try the traditional French potato purée with butter. It's so good!
- Meat is of a premium quality served without any drop of blood.
Food is indeed excellent!
- Tiramisu, profiteroles, pain perdu and apple crumble, four exceptional desserts prepared to perfection. Two thumbs up for such mouth watering creations. I adored the pain perdu, enjoyed the tiramisu and finished half the profiteroles all by myself while leaving the apple crumble for the end. Delicious.
The needed changes:
- Place mats or tablecloths are needed. It's cleaner, creates less noise and makes cutlery less slippery.
- Waiters need to wear uniforms.
- Train waiters to use the right choice of words.
- Ask for an engineer to fix the noise issue. Although they stopped the music, the place was too noisy.
- Prices can surely be reduced.
- When the owners are not present... a fine restaurant will turn into a cafeteria. Opening a second branch was a mistake.
- The waiter in black with the "Elvis Presley" hairstyle is surely in the wrong place. He walks around like Rambo making so many mistakes, arrogantly lying about undelivered dishes… Endless.
- Change the bill leaflet; it looks older than my grandma.
The food is excellent and decor is worth checking out, but it's not enough in my opinion. There’s a lot of attention needed around here. Next time you want to eat Italian, visit the Beirut branch.