A love affair which began in the 90’s has resulted in a fine marriage. Not just between the two people who fell in love – but in the harmonious relationship of homegrown food and fine wines served in an Italian atmosphere. Dee and PJ Betuci’s Toscana Restaurant represents the perfect balance of authentic Italian food, created with love, care, local meats and fish, and an envious gathering of homegrown produce grown on the family farm at home in Co.Wicklow.
Toscana sits in lively Dame Street in the centre of Dublin. Very close to all the sights and shopping arenas of the city centre. It’s small doorway is unobtrusive and perhaps to some, maybe even not particularly outstanding. It belies the passionate ethos and superlative menu offered here. Dee is a home grown Dublin girl. PJ is the Dubrovnik born chef of Italian grandparents. The two met during years of working for other establishments in the hospitality industry. PJ had been used to fresh produce from the garden and Italian cuisine from his mother’s kitchen. Dee has fond remembrances of working on her Dad’s allotment. When they decided to open their own place in 2002, there was no arguing that the cooking should be Italian, and the fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs should come from their own garden. To that end, they renovated a farmhouse in Wicklow, the same year they opened the restaurant. The gardens were accordingly planted with salads and other crops to feed the restaurant kitchens - and the exacting standards of Head Chef PJ. Over a decade later, an acre of very productive land and polytunnel at home supplies herbs, salad leaves, courgettes, traditional vegetables, tomatoes and other exotics in season. The Betuci’s own flock of rare breed hens lay beautiful free range eggs which are used in the home made pastas and baking. All this home produced fare compliments well aged beef sourced from a longstanding Dublin supplier, plus fresh seafood from top quality Irish suppliers. Foraged fruits for desserts and home made cordials come from PJ – who is often to be found climbing a random tree if he sees something interesting growing on it! This man is bonkers about food in totally the best of ways! He also makes his own Crème de Menthe from the leaves of the rampant mint bed at home.
Once you do find that front door and step inside Toscana, you step into what could be any typical Trattoria in Italy. The interior is cosy and welcoming. Staff are attentive and enthusiastic. Dee is a genial and professional hostess in the dining room. Personal service is paramount to the experience at Toscana. Waiting staff glide the room, under the expert eye of Dee. Food is simple in keeping with the best cuisine of Italy, and the freshest of ingredients. Lunch during the working week offers a superb value menu – currently you can eat three courses for less than fifteen euros. Those who can’t actually make it to the restaurant can pre-order for corporate deliveries or for collection for smaller orders. Saturday and Sunday lunches are set menus at great prices and change weekly, so it’s impossible to predict what you might enjoy but be sure it will be seasonal and filled with homegrown goodness.
At dinner, the lights get dimmed, the candles come out and Italy comes to life in the ambience. A full a la carte menu needs to be browsed thoroughly before decisions are made. Irish corn fed chicken, beef and fish are given the Italian treatment. Risottos, salads and home made stone baked pizzas fill the gaps. Desserts are rich with those home laid eggs. What more could you wish for? Well, perhaps some nice wine to go with it all. And this you will get. The Betuci’s are keen wine buffs and have a very enthusiastic Sommelier here in Toscana’s. His wealth of knowledge and love of the job, partnered with Dee and PJ’s own wine experience, has resulted in an impressive list of wines garnered direct from Italian winemakers. House wines are more than affordable. Plenty of selection by the glass, plus some half bottles too. Expect all the classics of Italy, and some new discoveries as well. Italian wine tasting evenings are extremely popular here. They include a visit and talk from a producer supplier plus a five course tasting menu with wines to match. These are ticketed events, purchasable online, and generally get booked out pretty quick!
The Toscana blackboards normally shout a wine of the month at a special price – so you can try something new at any time. Wine events are promoted via the Toscana website, giving ample notice so you can get your tickets fast. These and other private parties and special celebration events take place in the lower dining room which has it’s own discreet personality. What a discovery we have made in Dame Street. A charming restaurant which has thus far kept it’s home grown secret rather a little too well! We’re delighted to bring it to the attention of the world. A visit here is not to be missed during your time in Dublin.