Antico Toscano

1288 University Avenue, San Diego CA 92103
$$ Italian

At Antico Toscano in Hillcrest, simple food is prepared traditionally, often from the owner’s generation-old family recipes. The widely varied menu is surprisingly reasonable, and dishes emphasize quality, fresh ingredients, and seasonal offerings while imparting a hint of Italy’s history. The Italian Tapas menu is a delightful treat, offering small plates of traditional appetizers and main dishes. Equally so is the selection of wine flights, allowing diners to sample several domestic or Italian wines. Seated among the Italian antiques adorning the walls of this quaint and inviting trattoria, diners will feel seeped in Italian tradition.

Antico Toscano

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Hidden in the strip malls of University Ave, in the heart of Hillcrest, Antico Toscano rivals some of the finest Italian cuisine in San Diego at a bargain price. A charming atmosphere with walls adorned with wine racks, faux bricks, drawings of classic Italian villages, and rustic antiques to resemble shelves you might find in a Tuscan villa. The cheery ambiance is conducive to both family gatherings and romantic evenings.

Owner and Manager, Luca, is a delightful and welcoming host. Several years after he emigrated to the states, Luca's dream of opening his own restaurant has become a reality. Critics and gastronomes agree that one of the benchmarks of an Italian restaurant is Bolognese sauce. Toscano's excels. Luca, determined to serve the best, flew his mother over from Italy to teach him the family Bolognese secret (a savory mixture of beef and Italian sausage in the rich tomato sauce).

Antico Toscano's obsession with the freshest ingredients distinguishes it from similar restaurants. Most notably, Luca imports fresh Porcini mushrooms from Oregon and palmetto (heart of palm) from the Islands.

To start, the 'Carpaccio di Carne' appetizer is a beautiful and tasty blend of nutty arugola, heart of palm, lightly garnished with white truffle oil and lemon juice, laid on sheets of carpaccio and topped with leaves of parmesan. Carpaccio is a paper-thin slice of high-quality, rare beef. Toscano's slice is from a choice top round cut of beef.

Antico Toscano's salads are a steal in price and a gift in portions. The 'Insalata Di Pomodori' excels in its simplicity: featuring large slices of juicy tomatoes dressed with black olives, diced red onions, fresh basil leaves, crumbly feta cheese, olive oil and sprinkled with oregano. Also try the 'Insalata di Spinaci': spinach, fresh mushrooms, prosciutto and gorgonzola, dressed with a balsamic rosemary vinaigrette.

My favorite, the 'Tortellini alla Panna e Prosciutto', is a veal tortellini dish perfected to include a stuffing of prosciutto, al dente green peas and chunks of ham in a succulent cream sauce. The 'Risotto Mediterraneo' is the chef's favorite. Packed with mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes, the risotto is covered in a chardonnay cream sauce and topped with large, crispy shrimp.

If you like veal scaloppini, don't miss the 'Scaloppine San Remo'. It's chock-full of pine nuts, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, in a delicious white-wine cream sauce. The pine nuts are lightly toasted to accentuate the flavor. The 'Filetto al Porcini', an Angus beef filet mignon sauted in a white wine, garlic with plenty of fresh Porcini mushroom, is simply superb.

Another benchmark of a good Italian restaurant is the traditional dessert, 'Tiramisu'. Yet, again, Toscano proves it can more than hold its own with the most expensive Italian restaurants in town. A difficult treat to master, Toscano's Tiramisu is served as an individual staked round cake soaked in cappuccino and dusted with coco, perfect for their fresh cappuccino. Try the 'Panna Cotta', a vanilla, gelatinous dessert with a hint of orange and garnished with raspberry and mango coulis sauces.

The wines are fairly priced and offer a good selection of Italian wines by both the glass and the bottle to complement the menu offerings. Forget Chardonnay and for a crisp white, try the Zemmer Trentino ($6/glass). While I preferred the Farnese Sangiovese from Umbria ($6/glass) both the Colli Senesi Chianti ($9/glass) and the Castell d'Oro from Tuscany ($7/glass) are both very good and all three will pair well with any red course. The 1998 Barbera Ruvei by The Marchesi di Barolo from Piedmont is excellent. For a special occasion, the Owner's Cellar offers premium wines at reasonable prices.

To complete the experience, Antico Toscano is equipped with an efficient, well-trained, knowledgeable and attentive wait staff.

The initial wages of a dishwasher were not appealing to Antonio McGann, now executive chef at Antico Toscano. Although he has been in the restaurant business since he was 15, Antonio's mastery of the kitchen went virtually unknown until his debut, winning gold at the California Culinary Olympics in 1998. Since then, he has put a youthful spin on the Italian food scene in San Diego.

Antico Toscano adds fine Italian to the mix of Hillcrest's variety of restaurants. With excellent service, the freshest ingredients, outstanding food, and welcoming ambiance, Toscano is a bargain for fine dining and should not be missed.

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Business Info

  • Address: 1288 University Avenue, San Diego CA 92103
  • Cross Street: Corner of University, Richmond ( behind Heidi
  • Location: Hillcrest & Uptown | Hillcrest
  • Cuisine: Italian | Pasta |
  • Cost: | Inexpensive
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Star Rating:
  • Reservations: Unknown
  • Dress Code: Business Casual
  • Meals Served: Lunch | Dinner |
  • Parking: None |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard |
  • Corkage Fee: 12.00 | Per each bottle
  • Phone: 619.298.2768
  • Features: None,
  • Occasion: None,


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Business Hours

Reservations Available
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
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Customer Reviews & Ratings

4.5 out of 5 stars based on 1 votes