I love Italian food, obviously. I grew up on pasta and pork chops, and know the difference between each of my aunties’ pasta sauces compared to mum’s and nonna’s. I’m also really, really fussy with food which claims to be Italian.
So when we’re invited to try out Italian restaurants, I’m loathe to accept unless I can be reassured of their quality. how long has the chef been there? Are the any actual Italians working at the venue? Where are the ingredients sourced?
After being reassured the chef at TOZI London has been in place for two years since opening, all waiters and waitresses are Italian and the food is of the highest quality we made a booking. Which was cancelled. And then rearranged.
I was tempted to not bother going – Victoria is miles away from where we live, a real trek across London – but the promise of cicchetti and draft Prosecco was too tempting to pass up, so off we went.
We actually passed the restaurant’s private dining room, a gorgeous open plan space with huge floor-to-ceiling windows, and commented on how amazing that restaurant looked not knowing it was part of TOZI’s venue. It was only after we had a peek at the celebration going on we realised!
We also had no idea the restaurant is attached to the Park Plaza Hotel. As it’s right next to Wicked and Billy Elliot, attached to a hotel, and absolutely stunning, it’s no wonder why it got so busy when we first booked! All was forgiven after seeing just how gorgeous the place is.
But what about the food?
When we arrived our coats were taken and we were seated on the upper mezzanine, right next to the window and an orange tree that looked suspiciously like my nonno’s in his Sicilian courtyard. Our waiter, Georgio, explained how and what to order, and Stefano – his manager – suggested a few wines. For me, it was the lure of on tap Prosecco, and The Boy went for a Montepulciano.
Basically, cicchetti (chi-KEH-tea) is tapas, but Italian. You order 3-4 plates each, and get stuck in.
We decided to go for a mix of hot and cold dishes, and chose calamari fritti, tuna tartare, spianata (like pizza, without the tomato base), salame, black truffle ricotta ravioli, scallops and piedina (like a quesadilla, with meats and cheeses). We weren’t sure whether this would be enough, but Georgio suggested we try these and order more if needed.
The dishes arrive as and when they’re ready. There isn’t a starter or main, it’s just a case of picking at what you want. I love this. Casual eating in a classy setting, it doesn’t get much better.
The calamari was out first, with the salame and spianata soon after. I hate Italian sausage (oo-er) so I left that for the boy, and tucked into the rest. The calamari was cooked perfectly, and although I’m not a huge melanzane fan after being force-fed it in Sicily for about three weeks because it was in season and apparently everyone decide to plant aubergine on their land that year, but the flatbread was gorgeous. A delicious trio of flavours.
Next to come was the tuna tartare, a little salty for my tastes, but something we’ll be trying to replicate at home.
The rest arrived all at once, with the buttery, cheesy ravioli being the clear winner for me. The Boy wasn’t so keen, with the tuna tartare his favourite. The great thing about cicchetti is you can pick and choose. So you don’t like one dish, just order something different. It’s casual dining, and because you eat slower, you end up feeling full and satisfied. The private dining area seats 18, and I can imagine it’s a great space to book for friends or family wanting a relaxed evening.
After the wooden boards were cleared away we found room for dessert. I chose the sorbet, on Giorgio’s suggestion (I was intrigued after he called them strange, tbh) and The Boy went for a chocolate and amaretto bonet.
Now, the sorbet. I’m not sure I want to spoil the surprise. In fact, I won’t. They are deliciously strange.
The meal ended with a glass of amaro (for digestion, obvs), full bellies, and fond goodbyes.