Food & Drink, London

Tuscanic, 72 Old Compton Street, Soho

I love finding an ethnic restaurant that whisks you away for a journey – even if the journey is only going to last for the duration of a meal.

This month’s highlight in my life has been Soho: I love its history balancing on the verge of decadence and vice, I love the little coffee shops and restaurants representing the whole city’s multiculturalism, I love the little alleyways with cartoon and coffee shops and, in general, the atmosphere of the area where once jazz filled the cellars, writers flocked to the bars, and British rock ’n’ roll was born.

There are many places to eat in Soho, and my journey to discovery is just beginning. I had walked past Tuscanic’s red canopy a few times already, thinking that next time I must pop in. This sunny Saturday the time finally came, and in I went.


Tuscanic's simpe and rustic decorations.

Tuscanic’s simpe and rustic decorations.

At first I thought that Tuscanic was just a tiny little restaurant with tables lining one corridor in front of the counter but, in fact, the corridor lead into a bigger dining area at the back: a spacey but cosy room with about ten wooden tables and simple and rustic decoration. There were no windows, but a big skylight offered a soft light for the space.

I adore Italian food (well, who wouldn’t, right?), and especially if the restaurant is loyal to one area of Italy as, the nerd that I am, I like to educate myself whenever possible – yes, even when eating.

Tuscanic, naturally, hails for the Tuscan food. Tuscan food is known to be simple, but as the ingredients are carefully chosen from local producers any meal is delicious in its purity. The menu included, for example, plates of Italian cured meats and cheeses, breads (such as Tuscan style focaccia ‘La Schiacciata’ with vegetables and ‘Le Bruschette’ with several options for toppings), and traditional Tuscan soup and salads.

It was a warm and summery day in London, so I was happy too see a refreshing Pecorino and pear salad on the menu. Tuscan Pecorino is a very historic cheese, as it is already mentioned in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History – and this gentleman lived almost 2000 years ago! A bowl of simple leaves, pecorino and slices of pear, accompanied with bread, was tasty and fulfilling.

As a starter we shared olives and two tomato bruschettas on a thinly sliced crispy white bread: they were, again, simple yet tasty and brought me in my memories to the autumn when I visited my friends on the Tuscan hills next to Florence. And this is when you know that the kitchen is really putting some thought in the food they serve: in a way, they offer you a plane ticket on a plate.

It was a feast, and Italian feast in Soho!

It was a feast, and Italian feast in Soho!

My eternal sidekick had Panini, but the Panini in Tuscanic is not the kind that comes to my Finnish mind when hearing the word. The filling had three ingredients: ham, mozzarella and olives, and the bread was light – not squeezed flat in a grill with cheese dripping out from every corner of it. My sidekick also has a strange aversion to chocolate cakes (I think his eyes have turned brown just because of all the chocolate he has eaten), and as the Tuscanic’s Il Dolce part of the menu offered Pistocchi chocolate cake, I knew from the start that we wouldn’t be able to leave the restaurant without a chocolaty ending to it all.

Pistocchi chocolate torte was invented in Florence around 1990 by a Florentine confectioner and chef Claudio Pistocchi. The tart combines pure dark chocolate (up to six different kinds), cream and little cocoa powder. It is made without eggs, butter, sugar or flour, so it makes a fabulous gluten free desert. We have had our ups and downs devouring chocolate cakes around Europe, and I must say, if all the chocolaty treats were as tasty and decadent as this, I would have serious problems shopping for pants. Pistocchi torte was a new discovery to me, and I was glad to learn that Italian food is still developing and leaving its mark in the history books for foodies.

Tuscanic Merende: 'merere' comes from Latin and means 'to desrve'. In the olden time, farmers used to eat merende as a well earned reward for their hard work.

Tuscanic Merende: ‘merere’ is Latin and means ‘to desrve’. In the olden time, farmers used to eat merende as a well earned reward for their hard work.

Where: Located in Old Compton Street, opposite to Soho’s most famous coffee 2i’s – a birth place for British rock’n’roll – a spot where I now saw people slurping on their noodles.

To whom: Tuscanic is a great place for a light but fulfilling meal. At the back, there were groups, friends and couples, and in front a solitary traveler can sit by the window and keep an eye on Soho life.

Cost: Very good value for money: 2 soft drinks (apple and pink grapefruit), starters x 2, mains x 2 and a shared dessert with espresso and macchiato 34 pounds.

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