It was a star-studded event at Tosto’s 5th opening in the Greater Toronto Area on April 5th, which celebrated the newest location at the corner of Richmond and Spadina. If you’re not familiar with Tosto Quickfire Pizza Pasta, the concept is the first of its kind in North America, filling the gap between fast-casual and fine dining establishments. Tosto aims to offer restaurant quality dishes at near fast food prices.

Brand Vice President Michael Lublin explains that Tosto’s appeal is its value proposition, “We not only offer quality but quantity as well.” He elaborates on the sourcing of ingredients that are flavourful and unique to the dining market at Tosto: “We have a delightful ‘nduja on the menu – a salumi spread that was invented in Calabria, Italy – it lends a spicy flair to our Bolognese dish. Also, our sourcing of white Italian truffle oil which we use on our Funghi Pasta (pappardelle, bechamel sauce, portobello, cremini, button mushrooms, caramelized onions, grana padano, chives) definitely steps up the culinary game, not only in this category but for the industry as a whole.” The menu was devised by Michael Lublin, Jennifer Mah, Chris David, and Chef Nicolas Wong.

Dishes at Tosto highlight all regions of Italy with everything crafted on-site from scratch. Lublin states that each eatery creates at least 300 dough portions daily for their Romano pizzas. Unlike Neapolitan slices, this style is a refreshing departure from the thin crusts the city has been bombarded with of late. What makes the Romano pizzas unique is the texture – the ratio of 85% water to 15% flour creates and airy texture but with enough heft to yield a crisp texture akin to a focaccia but slightly airer and springy. Best of all, the dough is sturdy enough to hold a plethora of toppings. It’s a time consuming process which includes 2 proofing periods and a total of 9 hours of labour from start to finish – but worth it. Such hallmarks are a way to win over the guest, Lublin says optimistically.

Pasta, with five different shapes and types, are offered in numerous dishes and favoured by many. In fact, Juno nominated artist, Karl Wolf, who recently went gold for his latest single was present to lend his support to Tosto’s newest location. He cites that his favourite dish is by far the Bolognese which features pappardelle, meat sauce ‘nduja, grana padano, basil and garlic oil. He also offers his seal of approval on the Margherita pizza and the refreshing Romano salad which includes arugula, romaine, radicchio, cucumber, radish, cherry tomato, potato, and citrus balsamic vinaigrette. Also present was the Consul General of Cambodia, Mr. Sim Sokhom, who was in the city to not only strengthen international relations, but to show his support for entrepreneurial businesses such as Tosto; in fact, he says that the quality of the food here is on par with that of a Terroni or Pizza Libretto (the man has certainly has eaten his way around the city) but at much more affordable prices. And his favourite dish? Without a doubt, he says he was hooked when tasting the Nero, a squid ink linguine as dark as night with shrimp, garlic, capers, basil lead and finished with salmon caviar.

Tosto means, principled, practical, and pragmatic – this not only refers to the cuisine but also the ambiance. Christopher David, the interior designer explains his vision, “We wanted to achieve an aesthetic of industrial and home-y together – essentially an artisan design that is approachable for everyone, and the bottom line is – to be unpretentious. We want this to be a place you’d dine at on the weekdays. We’re not aiming to be a date night spot but rather an everyday choice for delicious food at accessible price points.” Not only are dishes constructed thoughtfully but so to is each Tosto location. David elaborates, “We try to be mindful of each location we open as well as the demographics living in the area – so for instance, our Richmond location (close to the financial district) features more leather, seductive black and white photos of Italy (all shot on David’s iphone 6+), and high top seating. Whereas with our Oakville and Vaughan locations, there’s more splashes of colour and more family style seating.” Just like how the Italian fare at Tosto is not too kitschy nor “bastardised” renditions of ones from the “motherland” to suit North American tastebuds, so too is the interior restaurant space. “We want images that showcase Italy but with respectable restraint – we don’t want it to be stereotyped or caricatured.” However the one constant is the ease of ordering at the front of the restaurant, watching orders being fired, and meals created a la minute from the open kitchen.

It’s been a mere 24 months from inception to execution of all 5 Tosto locations so far and Lublin isn’t done yet, “Italian fare is hearty, rustic, and passionate. We hope to share the flavours of Tosto through our expansion program; we aim to open more locations very soon across Canada and the world, respectively.”

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