SANDY — Toscano serves pizza, and its food tastes good, but that's literally all it has in common with Nevole's, the casual New York-style pizzeria that formerly occupied this space at the extreme south end of State Street.
Nevole's was all jeans and the Yankees and "how YOU doin'?" Toscano is a smart pair of black slacks, AC Milan and "Delizioso!"
Like downtown's Settebello, Toscano pizzas are made with imported Italian flour, with dough that rises twice in a process that takes more than 24 hours. The dough is then topped with extremely high-quality ingredients and cooked in an Italian wood-fired oven that blazes at 800 degrees, cooking the crust to a crispy doneness in 90 seconds flat.
We weren't sure what to expect from Toscano, so my husband and I brought a bunch of kids (our own four, plus two friends) on the night we stopped by for dinner. When we saw the grand player piano and statuary, we had doubts about taking in the kids.
But we also noticed there were quite a few kids there already. And the noise level, though not overly loud, was a cheerful buzz that masked the sounds our kids made as they chatted together and exclaimed at all the things they liked about the place.
Besides that, we had a cheerful and competent server who seated us at a corner banquette, kept the drinks and food coming at a smart clip and made us feel welcome.
We started with some meatballs in marinara sauce, roasted in the oven with just enough mozzarella cheese to give them a little extra richness. The three meatballs in the serving were large, beautifully spiced and, though they held together fine, nicely tender and juicy inside. We sliced them up and passed them around on the accompanying teensy slices of Italian bread.
We also had the best appetizer I've had in months, maybe years: sea-salt pizza crust strips accompanied by four delicious spreads. The roasted red pepper hummus was mellow and a little sweet; the basil dip was essentially a flavorful, creamy pesto.
Both were delicious, but my favorites were the sour-bitter-salty olive tapenade with several types of olives, and the "salsa di Parmigiano," finely chunked Parmesan cheese in olive oil. It was simple and utterly delectable.
We also tried the pasta e fagioli soup, which here was almost an Italian chili, thick and nearly smoky tasting with ground beef, pasta and beans.
For dinner, my husband had the half-size meatball sandwich, totally packed with the same meatballs we ordered as an appetizer in the same fresh marinara, plus provolone cheese that did its best to hold everything together.
With it he had a side Italian-style salad with fresh mixed greens, pepperoncini, red onion, tomatoes and olives, dressed with vinaigrette.
He also helped us finish up the pizzas we ordered. Every pizza is 13 inches, so three were more than enough to satisfy us all. For the kids, we got the pepperoni, but they were surprised at the intense flavor of the high-quality pepperoni on Toscano pizza. Most of them liked it; a few picked it off.
The two 12-year-olds in our group had the chicken pesto pizza, a base of pesto and buffalo mozzarella sprinkled with diced roasted chicken and Parmesan cheese. The crust was wonderful, crisp at the edges and chewy throughout, and the toppings lived up to it.
The same was the case with my pizza, crust spread with crushed tomatoes and topped with ricotta cheese and mozzarella. Then, after cooking, slivers of proscuitto and arugula leaves were generously laid on top. It was salty, a bit sweet, creamy, chewy, tangy, with a peppery snap from the greens.
For dessert we visited the gelato bar for four flavors: creamy and coffee-infused tiramisu, mint chocolate chip, bright and sour pink grapefruit and "bon bon," which tastes exactly like an Italian chocolate filled with hazelnuts. Mmmm.
Appetizers $6.95-$11.95, salads $6.95-$10.95, sandwiches $5.95-$8.95, pizza $10.95-$18.95, dessert $1-$5.95.
Where: 17 E. 11400 South, Sandy
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday 4-8 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards accepted
Wheelchair access: Easy
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News. e-mail: email@example.com