The Entertainment Book introduced me to Toscana Italian Ristorante, located at 8405 S. 27th St.Â in Franklin.
Chef and owner Eddie Sopiqoti moved here from Albania after working for 10 yearsÂ in the Tuscany (hence Toscana) region of Italy, learning the craft of Italian cuisine,Â including pizza.Â Sopiqoti worked in a restaurant on Milwaukeeâ€™s south side while saving money to oneÂ day open his own.
He named the restaurant La Toscana when he opened in 2003, but customersÂ kept calling in asking to order Mexican food, an honest mistake corrected after those twoÂ letters were removed from the name.
Toscana is family-owned and operated. On my visit, Sopiqoti pointed out his mother andÂ his son assisting other customers.
On the west wall hung a large HD flat screen TV. A couple came in for dinner and askedÂ why the Packers game wasnâ€™t on. It was a bit entertaining to hear the couple explain to theÂ staff that the game was being televised on Telemundo.Â Iâ€™m certain they would have left to dine elsewhere had the staff not located the game.Â Iâ€™m also fairly certain that couple will never demand that a television channel be changedÂ to Telemundo.
While waiting for my order, I enjoyed the music playing over the speakers, a mix ofÂ classic Italian songs and a little Sinatra. I later discovered that their website plays some ofÂ the same songs and has a link with a page of coupons.
Dark green carpet covered the floors. Booths lined the walls while dark, wooden tablesÂ with dark wooden chairs and green cushions filled the center of the dining room.Â The walls were covered with dark wood panels on the lower half and white paintedÂ drywall upper half. Faux vines adorned the booth dividers.Â
Toscanaâ€™s menu features Italian seafood dishes, Italian chicken dishes, steaks and chops,Â pastas, burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads, appetizers and buckets of fried chicken andÂ fish.
Like most Milwaukee restaurants, Toscana also offers a Friday cod fish fry or baked codÂ dinner for $8.99, and they serve a full breakfast menu daily, starting at 8 a.m.
Toscana offers a decent array of pizza options. Crust options are thin-n-crispy, thick-n-crispy and pan style. A gluten-free crust is also available.Â Crust sizes come in 12, 14, and 16 inches. They also offer a 16-by-32-inch pie crust.
Prices start at $9 to $20 for a cheese pizza. Additional toppings range from $1Â up to $2.50.Â They also offer a Golden Pizza which allows you to select any pizza and replace theirÂ made-from-scratch red pizza sauce with house-made Alfredo sauce.
The red sauce is made from a puree of fresh Roma tomatoes, not canned, with their ownÂ blend of spices added. The sauce has a delicious spicy flavor to it. I couldnâ€™t believe itÂ was made from scratch since the seasoning blend masked the taste of tomatoes.Â One key ingredient in their pizza sauce, and other Italian dishes, is basil, which Sopiqotiâ€™sÂ mother grows in her backyard. Other toppings are provided by suppliers from theÂ Milwaukee and Chicago area. The pizza dough is also made fresh daily.
Toscanaâ€™s specialty pizzas are available in 12-, 16- and 16-by-32 inch pies and range fromÂ $11 to $22.Â Some of Toscanaâ€™s most interesting specialty pizzas include a Mediterranean withÂ pomodoro sauce, spinach, gorgonzola and feta, an Amore with chicken, red peppers,Â spinach and artichoke, and Iveyâ€™s Pizza with French fries, cheeseburger and chickenÂ fingers.
I started with the Meat Lovers pizza, topped with sausage, pepperoni, bacon andÂ meatballs on the thin-n-crispy crust.Â The crust was only slightly crisp and a little too dense and dry for me, with a textureÂ similar to a stale cracker. However, the crust maintained its integrity as each square sliceÂ held the toppings well.
The pepperoni slices were thin and slightly spicy. The small sausage chunks had a reallyÂ nice spicy flavor. I barely noticed the bacon, and I wasnâ€™t a fan of the meatball topping.Â The meatballs looked like pieces cut from a link of meat with a smooth, round edge. TheÂ flavor was like that of a blend of beef and lamb.
Besides the sausage, I thought the spicy pizza sauce provided most of the flavor andÂ helped salvage the pizza.
Next up was the Amore on a pan-style crust. Again, the crust was slightly crisp and a bitÂ too dense for my liking. I would have preferred a buttery flavor and texture. These slicesÂ were cut as pies and also held firm when lifted.
The chicken chunks were tender, but unseasoned other than salt. A marinade wouldÂ certainly have provided some needed flavor. The artichokes provided salty flavor, and theÂ red peppers and spinach provided balance to the saltiness of the artichokes.
Neither pizza included mushrooms, but I feel compelled to tell you that Toscana offersÂ both fresh and canned mushrooms.
Sopiqoti believes the fact that Toscana Ristorante is family-owned and operated is whatÂ keeps the customers coming back. He was very friendly and genuine when we spoke. HisÂ servers are attentive and accommodating.
I feel I should return some day to experience some of the other recipes that SopiqotiÂ brought here from his cooking teachers in Tuscany. Perhaps Iâ€™ll get back some day whenÂ my quest is over.
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Rick Rodriguez
Published Feb. 9, 2020
Happy National Pizza Day! Our neighborhoods are filled with pizzerias - all unique, bursting with flavor and filled with storied histories. One Milwaukeean has eaten his way through the lion's share. His hard work translates into your guide to great pizza in greater Milwaukee.
Published April 15, 2019
San Giorgio Pizzeria Napoletana was under construction when Rick Rodriguez retired his blog "In search of the perfect pizza," but he vowed to come back and write one last blog about Milwaukee's first and only certified Neapolitan pizzeria.
Published Oct. 11, 2016
Rick Rodriguez has been blogging about his search for the perfect pizza for four years. Now that he's retiring from his post, he shares some favorite spots from the past few years as well as parting words for readers who've followed his adventure.
Published Sept. 7, 2016
In his 100th pizza blog, Rick ventures out to Waukesha where, upon the recommendation of a friend or two, he tries pizza, garlic cheese bread and ponza rottas from Jimmy's Grotto. What's a ponza rotta? Well, you'll have to read to find out.
Published Aug. 3, 2016
Rick Rodriguez says he doesn't think he's ever written about a pizza place as new as Fixture Pizza Pub. In this installment of his pizza blog, he gives the lowdown on the space, the food and a few other interesting facts about the owners and offerings.
Published July 15, 2016
Rick Rodriguez is often asked "who makes the best pizza?" or "who makes your favorite pizza?" The latter is a difficult question to answer, and the former is nearly impossible to answer. Still, here are some his top picks for Milwaukee pizza.
Published July 6, 2016
Sometimes Rick Rodriguez looks in unexpected places for pizza - like Shaker's Cigar Bar, for instance. But does this venue that regularly gets onto lists of the most haunted bars in America make the cut when it comes to delicious pizza?
Published June 1, 2016
Despite a sizable menu that includes hand-tossed pizzas, pizza blogger Rick Rodriguez dings Zayna's Pizza for the dense crust and a Mexican pizza on which the toppings "could use a little tweaking."
Published May 4, 2016
The folks at Carini's La Conca D'Oro have a long and storied history, with roots in Italy. They serve up authentic Neapolitan pizza, along with other Italian dishes including a variety of seafood entrees.
Published April 6, 2016
It's not often Rick Rodriguez writes about reader-selected spots. But the words "thin crust," "good pizza" and "small bar" were repeated by enough people that he felt a visit to Scotty's was warranted.