This is not just another new Italian restaurant. Sure, there are Italian influences in the spectacular cuisine, and the Californian chefs with Italian background are led by Silvia Caliero (formerly of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, USA, a leader in the world of eco-gastronomy and local produce), assisted by her partner (Jason) and the Tuscan Giacoppo. It could pass for a Mediterranean-style restaurant you might find in New York or California, where local products and extremely high quality dominate the industry.
The décor is the work of interior designer Lázaro Rosa Violan, so you know your eyes will be in for a treat as well. And Gonzalo at the front of house upholds the same measure of quality, friendliness and good taste. There is no set menu, and you won’t miss having one. The best calling card is how the kitchen itself works, fresh, natural, and locally, and with a calm that Rafa Campos and Ronit Stern have brought to the task.
Totó’s original starters, among them a skewer of liver or arancini (croquettes) with tomato and mozzarella, are unlike anything else. And these latter two ingredients – just like everything Rafa and Ronit seek and find in Italy and Catalonia – are also used in the pizzas, which steal the show nearly every Sunday night.
We started with the ‘Jewish artichokes’, which could be straight from the Jewish quarter in Rome. Other hits include the charcuterie plate and baby clams with Rioja wine and alioli.
Fresh pasta is prepared every day, and of course the menu varies daily according to what fresh ingredients are available. The day we were there Giacoppo had made some paccheri (a kind of giant macaroni) with seafood, chili and broth, as well as spaghetti à la Paulina (with cauliflower, saffron and raisins). Both were exquisite. Among the first courses were chicken mattone (with spinach and black olives), and lamb cooked at low temperature with chickpeas, spinach and yoghurt sauce.
From the grill, try the swordfish with celery, turnip, yellow peppers and breadcrumb sauce, or the beef fillet with pumpkin purée and grilled spring onions. And don’t forget to try a glass or a bottle from the well-stocked wine bar.