Years ago Bar Toscana in Brentwood was a place I met friends for cocktails in my single days. Thankfully this intimate cocktail bar (since 2010) that sits next to the Tuscan trattoria TOSCANA on San Vicente is still around – for almost 30 years now! That is quite a feat in Los Angeles where peoples’ tastes change daily and many Angelenos tire of restaurants only open a year due to their desire for something new.
It was a weekday night in Brentwood and Bar Toscana was packed with families, dates, and big entertainment industry execs I recognized from just living in LA. It felt nice or perhaps comforting to return to this neighborhood spot with my husband who didn’t mind my obsession with eating well (and holding my food light).
We started our foodie journey at Bar Toscana with small plates or as Italians say, “Stuzzichini” paired with handcrafted cocktails inspired by Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy. Fresh produce may come with your cocktails. It is California! For those who enjoy Mezcal, order the smoky spicy Mr. Diaz (Mezcal with blood orange, chipotle, honey, and lime) or the Mexico Picante with reposado tequila, mezcal, jalapeno, cucumber, basil, and lime. Perhaps an Italian aperitif is more your style?
Every good Italian meal starts with creamy burrata, but this time ours came with a board of grilled ciabatta, sweet green heirloom tomato jam, and thinly shaved fresh smoked prosciutto. The Tuna Tartar mound came with shishito peppers, asparagus and black truffles. The thinly pounded raw beef Carpaccio was exceptionally delicious topped with olive oil, arugula, marinated artichokes, black truffles, and shaved pecorino. As the bar was roaring with conversations, Toscana just a few steps away was a nice reprieve.
Like an old-school Italian restaurant with white tablecloths, this quaint rustic establishment was buzzing with dates, business meeting dinners, and family gatherings. To our surprise, they had soft shell crab as a special on the menu. The two crispy fried crabs with tender meat did not even need the sauce. We devoured each crab in a minute.
In keeping with my Italian heritage, fettuccine Bolognese was on the top of my list to order. Most pastas are made in-house and the sauce was executed the way I like it – heavy on flavor and light on acid. Other memorable dishes created by Executive Chef Hugo Vasquez included the grilled melt in your mouth Branzino with lemon, plated tableside. A delicious Cabernet from Frank Family Vineyards was a fantastic all-around pairing.
Try a Toscana classic in their wood-burning oven – Pizza with many toppings, Grilled Veal Chop with butter and sage, Roasted Lamb Chops of New Zealand, Grilled Salmon with arugula and tomatoes, Filet Mignon with porcini mushrooms, and more.
The coconut sorbet in a coconut shell with a bowl of berries was the perfect light and refreshing ending to this memorable meal.
Congrats to first-time restaurateurs, Kathie and Mike Gordon who dreamed of creating a neighborly Tuscan trattoria in 1989 where friends and family could come together to eat simple, delicious food just like they found in Italy. Their success has spanned nearly three decades. Bravo!
11633 San Vicente Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90049