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Originally from Ischia, an Italian island off the coast of Naples, owner Augusto Conte came to Charlotte in 1995. Starting with Conte’s, which was located on Selwyn Avenue, where soon-to-be-closing Nolen Kitchen is located, Augusto has started a host of successful Italian restaurants – each uniquely different. His current restaurants include Luce (Uptown), Malabar, Mezzanotte, Via Roma in Waverly, and Toscana which has been open for almost 25 years.

Since Toscana is Augusto’s longest-running restaurant to date, we decided to head back to celebrate a special occasion with our dear friends, Gary & Kristi Davies. Gary, who moved from South Africa in 1981, loves to claim that I was his first friend in the U.S. when we were 13 years old. But I think that’s simply because I was, and remain, his only friend. Of course, that’s not true, but it’s been our long running joke now for 40+ years.

Toscana is located in the Specialty Shops on Morrison Boulevard directly across from Southpark Mall. Also located there are the popular Bricktops and Frank Scibelli’s Paco’s Tacos. For those who have not been to Toscana, one might not realize that the restaurant is even there, as it’s tucked away in the center promenade of the development. The location is ideal though, since Toscana has a wonderful outdoor seating area. If you have ever been to Italy, having dinner on that patio on a nice spring or fall evening will transport you back to those great Italian street side restaurants. And if you choose to eat inside, you will find a very warm and inviting atmosphere. This is emphasized by the friendly, attentive staff. Over the years, the servers who have waited on us have been very knowledgeable about the menu and about food in general. The manager, Shafrik, is very pleasant and proactive - regularly checking on the guests. You can tell by how warmly he is greeted by many of the patrons, that this is a restaurant which attracts a lot of regular customers - much like what we observed at Mezzanotte. An interesting side note, Shafrik, who is originally from Morocco, played for the French national soccer team before immigrating to the U.S.

On our most recent evening at Toscana, I had the Lobster Risotto which included parmigiano, truffle oil, cream, and lobster meat. Beth & Gary each had the Halibut special which was served over a nice mushroom risotto, while Kristy had the Branzino special. For those who have not had this fish, Branzino is a Mediterranean sea bass.

Some of the other dishes that we have eaten over years, which are quite good, are the pan seared salmon with zucchini farotto (one of Beth’s favorites), the veal piccata with which I usually pare a side of pasta and marinara, as well as classic pasta dishes lasagna, ravioli, and their gnocchi with marinara, fresh basil, and mozzarella.

Toscana has an extensive wine selection from which to choose. We have found the servers to be pretty knowledgeable about the list, and Shafrik is extremely so for those who may want help picking out the perfect wine to accompany their meal.

As we have written in previous reviews, when a restaurant can operate successfully for 25 years in Charlotte, then it has to be doing something right. And Toscana is no exception.

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