This little gem restaurant opened about three weeks ago in December 2013 and it has had me coming back for more ever since my first taste. In fact, my new rule before leaving any review is that I must sample the menu at least five times. Being from Youngstown Ohio, the Italian restaurant capitol of the world, my husband and I have high expectations for what really authentic Italian food should taste like. Often let down by other Temecula Italian restaurants before, this was not the case with Trattoria Toscana. When I use the word “authentic”, I mean just that… Trattoria Toscana scored a solid five stars.
This is one of the few Italian restaurants in Temecula that prides itself on carrying everything fresh from local organic produce to fresh fish served in limited quantities. Nothing is made beforehand or frozen and warmed up. All dishes are made fresh to order and, if you want something that’s not on the menu, just ask for it and they’ll make it for you. The three kitchen staff is well organized and will get your food out quickly and hot. Food can also be ordered ahead of time and picked up. If you want to wait a little while before placing the order so that you can enjoy the ambiance that this quaint little restaurant offers, you’re welcome to take your time and order at your leisure.
One of the impressive features of the restaurant is that the L-shaped bar, table tops and wooden frames on the walls were all handmade by the owner, Pietro Cinus, who not only is an accomplished chef, but also a master carpenter. They are all made of solid mahogany and have a hand rubbed tung oil finish which gives the restaurant a warm look and feel. The place is small and cozy, but in some ways, that is good because that always assures great service.
One of the things I really appreciate is that this restaurant has nice romantic lighting. I didn't feel like I was in the spotlight when I ate there and this really added to my eating experiences. There were no drafts or cold spots either. The temperature of the restaurant always feels just right. Trattoria Toscana is, indeed, a sexy little restaurant you’ll definitely want to wear that LBD.
On the weekends, you'll be greeted by Gino, a handsome older waiter that immediately makes you feel like family. Gino speaks five languages and is fluid in English, too. He was a restaurant owner his whole life before retiring and now helps out from time-to-time to assure that Trattoria Toscano avoids the pitfalls that many new restaurant businesses can’t overcome. He has won my Table Excellence Award by making sure we are always well taken care of. It’s not just me that receives this specialized service, it’s every guest that dines there. You will feel special there.
Their restaurant’s sommelier, Stefano, is a well educated wine expert who also works part time at another local Temecula winery. He also teaches wine courses in his spare time. He is quite knowledgeable about which wines go with what and he will even allow a taster to assure you’ve picked the right one for your lunch or dinner. The restaurant has a nice selection of organic Italian wines and local wines priced from $16 to $32 a bottle. These include Rilento Chardonnay and Pinot Nero -- both from Sicily, C. Grande Montepulciano (Abruzzo, Italy), Sonnino, Leone Rosso (Tuscany), Giol – an organic Pinot Grigio (Veneto, Italy), Dorgali Cannonau Riserva (Sardinia, Italy), Mistral Nero D’Avola (Sicily), in addition to local Temecula winery, Wiens Rose of Pinot Noir (Temecula, CA). My favorite is the organic Sticciano Chianti, a beautiful tasting 2011 that even has leg streamers coming down from the sides of the glass when you give it the swirl test. They also carry only bottled beer like Peroni beer and they are also the first restaurant in the area to serve Wiens Brewing double hop IPA Insomnia beer by the bottle.
Pietro, the owner, has helped open three other Italian restaurants in Temecula during the past six years he’s lived here. He has always dreamed of owning his own restaurant and now that dream has come true. He is from Sardinia and all the dishes he prepares are native to his region. He skimps on nothing!
Every now and then, he offers a sautéed octopus salad. I’ve had this dish before when I traveled to Spain in the early 1980’s but have never seen it offered in a restaurant in the U.S. When he told me it was the special for that evening, my eyes lit up. It was just like I remembered it, full of flavor and a meal in itself. The octopus was not breaded or fried but only sautéed in extra virgin olive oil and tossed in a light dressing which melded the flavors.
Another unusual dish the restaurant serves is a carpacchio made of compressed octopus that’s thinly sliced and served with fresh olive oil and a little lemon juice on top. The restaurant also makes its own flat bread which is similar to lavash. All of their pastas are made fresh daily.
My husband always rates a restaurant by the steak it serves, but this is no ordinary filet mignon. The cut is more of a chateaubriand served medium rare which is then drizzled with truffle sauce and served with roasted vegetables surrounding the oval plate. He allowed me to taste it and it melted in my mouth. Although a bit pricey at $28, if you’re in the mood for a great steak, you must treat yourself and try it. Paired with the Stucciano chianti wine, it provides the ultimate taste experience.
In addition to the home made gnocchi served with an arugula pesto sauce, staples on the menu include Papperdelle con funghi, a homemade wide noodle sautéed with a medley of mushrooms, caramelized onions and cream; a fantastic linguine vongole made with manila clams sautéed in fresh herbs, white wine and olive oil, and their house Lasagna.
One of the other delightfully different things this restaurant does is that it doesn’t have live music, but instead plays a wonderfully pleasing background music reminiscent of Parisian café music. It makes you feel like you’re in Italy when you eat there. Staring at the almost 3D Italian scenes on the wall only add more charm to the place.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and features local wines and beers from different wineries and breweries from the Temecula area. You’re also welcome to bring your own wine which can be opened for a small corkage fee. They also provide catering to the De Luz area, Temecula wine country, Bear Creek, La Cresta, Murrieta and Fallbrook.
The restaurant is not easily spotted from the road, but it’s located in the Palm Plaza shopping center at 26485 Ynez Road between Overland and Winchester Roads. If you’ve eaten at the old Traveler’s Café before, Trattoria Toscana assumed their space. Or, if you are familiar with Radio Shack and See’s Candy, Trattoria Toscana is right between the two.
This restaurant’s menu is moderately to higher priced, but their food, portions and service is worth it. Their unusual selection of specialty dishes cooked the Sardinian way will keep you coming back for more. They’re located 15 minutes from Temecula’s wine country, 10 minutes from Old Town Temecula, and 15 minutes from Pechanga Casino. Taxi service and limos are readily available. There’s even a movie theatre within walking distance from the restaurant in case you want to make it the perfect date night.
Space is very limited and reservations are strongly suggested. Trattoria Toscana’s phone number is 951-296-2066 and their website is trattoriatoscanaintemecula.com.