Tozi

Having dined, celebrated birthdays, and enjoyed many wine tastings at Tozi, this is a retrospective and long overdue review of this Venetian-Italian restaurant and bar. So many times have I enjoyed visits here that I’d even like to say that Tozi would consider me to be one of their “regulars”, though I’ve haven’t been back for far too long now! Although Victoria might not be on the top of your list of areas in London to head to eat, Tozi (along with the Nova development featuring Timmy Green, Franco Manca, Sourced Market, The Riding House Café, Sticks n Sushi etc.) changes the culinary landscape of what is often considered to be just a travel thorough-fare. An unlikely find, Tozi’s ambience is good enough to make the trek out or even kill time before catching a train.

The authentic Venetian vibe transports you to the heart of Italy. Once past the reception area — hotel-y even though it’s particular to the restaurant and not to the attached Park Plaza hotel — Tozi brings me into what is my favourite country, but without all the décor clichés. It’s very slick and even has a New York-esque energy. A large open kitchen, flames leaping in a clay oven, piles of bread, prosecco on tap and homemade barrel-aged Negroni contribute a sense of warmth and magnanimity. The FT’s “How to Spend it Magazine” even points out that Tozi rests its own Negroni in wood for two months. Various rustic artefacts such as old-fashioned weighing scales, wire cages for storing wine and bleached pine shop fittings also break up the dual-level dining space. This Italian spot feels refreshingly youthful with its slick surrounds, chirpy staff and tasty cicchetti…

I’m delighted to learn that whilst the chef, Daniele Pampagnin, was born in Venice, Maurilio Molteni, Tozi’s Head Chef, was born in Lake Como and even worked alongside Antonio Carluccio at his fine-dining Neal Street restaurant. Tozi’s cooking is firmly rooted in the Northern Italian tradition. Even the waiters and waitresses are Italian and are uniformly charming and friendly. Best of all, the produce is sourced from Italy. Soho House and Shoreditch House also feature on the CVs of chefs Daniele and Maurilio. Indeed, the cicchetti concept — here on offer all day — was something Pampagnin worked on at Cecconi’s and makes Tozi perfect to share a variety of dishes.

My go-to ciccheti at Tozi has to be their Zucchini (£4.25), the courgette “chips”. They’re perfectly fried – crisp, but unctuous on the inside. For my companions, the signature Tozi plate has been the simple but top-quality Burrata, heritage tomatoes and basil (£7.75), which has been so creamy that it transports you to Italy without the journey. Indeed, Pampagnin is passionate about supporting Italian producers, seeking produce from Piedmont suppliers and olive oil blended in the Puglia region. The quality of their ingredients shines through.

The wood-fired oven, meanwhile, is used for flat breads from simple Bruschetta with wonderfully marinated tomatoes, garlic and basil (£5.25), to the more lavish and delicious Pizzetta of tomato, roasted peppers and smoked burrata. I’ve also enjoyed pastas here which are very homemade. The Buffalo ricotta ravioli garnished with black truffle (£8.25) is outstanding. Delicate but rich, creamy but with a great earthiness and depth, just thinking about it is mouth-watering. It’s beautifully crafted and served with a silky butter emulsion; it’s too good to share. I’d also recommend their Aubergine parmigiana (£6.25), which is a perfect sized portion – enough to satisfy but not full you too much. The aubergine melts in the mouth from being pre-fried before baking, and the tomato sauce is rich with character; all is topped off with a huge sprinkle of melted parmesan. Yum. For afters, the classic Italian desert, the Tozi affogto (£5.75) is small but delectable.

Although I’m not a wine-expert, companions with whom I’ve enjoyed a glass of wine (or two) at Tozi note that Tozi has an excellent all-Italian wine and Prosecco list. Tozi serves wine by a selection of small, independent producers as well as a range of biological wines through its supplier Passione Vino. The list is very accessible from a price point of view, with the aim of opening up a host of new wine discoveries to people whatever their budget. They even used to host complementary but well-booked wine tastings at their large table.

Tozi is the perfect spot for a catch-up and really brings people together. Not only do they serve tapas-style “cicchetti” plates, but the word “tozi” is apparently Venetian slang for a bunch of guys or a bunch of friends. This lively spot is perfect for great value casual eating in a classy setting with friends and family.

Tozi, 8 Gillingham Street, SW1

Website: http://www.tozirestaurant.co.uk/home

Rating: *****

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