Who knew you could have so much fun in Brentwood? (Well, whenever alcohol’s involved, people always seem to be in a better mood.) The quiet Westside town is now home to Bar Toscana, the cocktail-centric younger sibling to Toscana, a longtime neighborhood favorite for Northern Italian fare.
The space itself is pretty cool, a sleek narrow area with a mini lounge at front, a long bar to the left, chairs & tables to the right, and a groovy digital art installation that plays on the side floors and on the end of the wall via ceiling projector. The whole idea is to give us a taste of modern, urban Milan and I think they got it right.
Now on to the drinks … and who’s making them. Straight-from-Venice mixologist Willliam Perbellini (yes, that’s his real name and as such, if it’s in season, you must try his eponymous Pear Bellini) whips up cocktails from scratch, even down to the freshly chipped ice off the block. Being that I’m not much of a drinker at all, Willliam suggested the Aperol Spritz to start, which was sparkly and herbaceous thanks to the St. Germain liqueur, but it was still too bitter for my taste. If you’re old school & like alcohol, try My Italian Sazerac, served over a very cool (literally) ice globe and finished with a “whiff of absinthe.”
But my favorite was the Cinque Terre, a subtlety sweet concoction of Hendrick’s gin (although they’ll do it for you with vodka if you prefer), strawberries, mint, and basil bonded together with fresh lime and agave nectar. It’s deceptively smooth, so be careful on this one–you might underestimate its effects and end up falling right back on your chair the minute you get up.
Yeah, it’s a bar, but my main interest is always the food. Thankfully, this is a watering hole with a menu of edibles. And oh are they good. There about a dozen seasonally-minded small plates (called stuzzichini if you wanna get all Italian about it) as well as a few daily specials written on the mirrored menu on the wall. And yes, these dishes are small, so you could very well end up ordering the entire menu. Start with the Zuppa di Carciefi, an incredibly savory, piping hot cup of creamy baby artichoke soup and the delicious Polentine, baked polenta croutons (think crispy Italian tater tots) with gorgonzola fondue and shaved black truffle. As the menu states, “Bar Toscana is a small bar, but it will provide you with a big experience.” Agreed.
More info: www.toscanabrentwood.com