In big cities where dining options are abundant and ever-changing, it’s a privilege for a restaurant to stick around long enough to embed itself into the public’s consciousness. They are the ones which would usually elicit an, “Ah, that one!” in an instant—even among those who have never visited. A Kemang feature since 1996, it’s safe to say that Toscana is one such establishment.
“Talking with the guests, I discovered that a lot of people have made fond memories in Toscana. There are customers who used to dine here with their parents and now return as parents themselves, bringing their own children along,” shared general manager Hasan Masyhur, who himself used to be a regular—especially for date nights with his wife. “One guest even told me that he proposed to his wife at this very restaurant!”
27 years might seem less impressive when compared to generations-spanning street food icons that are spread across the city. But it’s worth noting that the Italian restaurant has lived on through a time when such a loyal take on the cuisine was a novelty outside of 5-star hotels, to the present day when the city’s discerning customers are beginning to get tired of pasta dishes that were once few and far between in the city.
The rejuvenation project that began early this year is a celebration of this legacy. Now reopened with a fresh coat of blue paint, a glasshouse porch for semi-alfresco dining and a revamped wine list with selections from Tuscany (a homage to the historic region that inspired the restaurant’s founding), Toscana is shedding local and American influences that have accumulated in its menu over the years. The restaurant is returning to its original interpretation of Italian cuisine, with the restaurant’s first chef, Mario de Carlini, back at the helm as a consultant.
Led by executive chef Akmal, some items on the menu take on a contemporary approach to fit with the times; like the Polpo e Caponata, an 8-hour-braised octopus tentacle dish served in gourmet plating with chopped Sicilian vegetables. Even so, the main appeal doesn’t stray far from pizza, which has been a Toscana mainstay since its inception.
A dedicated pizza bar now stands in the corner of the room, facing the iconic wood-fired oven around which the restaurant was built. Here, diners can witness the adept hands of cooks Agus Suwartoyo and Dwi ‘Dwiki’ Purnomo at work—both of whom have been making the classic thin-crust Milanese pizzas at the restaurant for more than 20 years. Try the Capricciosa, which boasts a combination of champignon mushroom, Toulouse sausage, onion, Kalamata olives and an option of homemade wagyu roast beef on a bed of tomato sauce and pomodoro mozzarella. Pair it with a classic glass of Negroni from the bar, and you’ve got yourself a meal.
Even now that the city is overflowing with Italian restaurants, some find their way back to Toscana for the memories. Sure, its new face and offerings might initially come as a surprise, but a look around the room would reveal that many things have stayed the same; from the fresh red roses that graze every table, the dark wooden ceiling, down to the comfortable and intimate atmosphere that has drawn a steady flow of diners to the restaurant over the years.