Food with attitude
Toto Restaurante & Wine Bar
Recently opened Toto is both a wine bar (also serving cocktails) and a restaurant specialising in slow food with a focus on contemporary Italian cuisine. The first thing that strikes you about Toto is the décor, somewhere between vintage and industrial chic the walls and ceilings are covered with antique mirrors, reflecting surfaces and glass chandelier light fittings. It was designed by Lázaro Rosa-Violán, interior designer par excellence who also designed the recently opened Ocaña and Chez Coco. The entrance is slightly set back from the street with a cocktail and wine bar reminiscent of the classic Belle Époque bar counters of the 19th century at the front leads to the main dining space which is dominated by a metal arch with theatrical lighting that frames Toto’s raison d’être – the kitchen with its props (the vegetables) and log fired oven all on view perfuming the space and sending signals to the taste buds. Owners Rafael Campos and Ronit Stern (of the adjacent Crustó bakery and cafeteria chain) have assembled a team of professionals; cocktail barman (Romeo Madda), pastry chef (Rodolfo Cerruti), sommelier (Rafa, the owner) and head chefs Silvia Calierno (US) and Jason Boteril (Canada 1986) both from Italian backgrounds who although young have taken command of the culinary direction of Toto. Having trained at Chez Panisse the renowned Slow Food restaurant founded by Alice Waters in San Francisco, California) and River Café (London) Km 0 organic food philosophy is printed in their DNA.
The Barcelona restaurant scene is ferociously competitive one, how much did Silvia and Jason know about local food culture here and how do they intend to differentiate Toto’s culinary offering from other similar restaurants. “We came here with the intention of being super respectful of the food culture that already exists but at the same time I think that we have a naiveté that works to our advantage. We are not so caught up in what’s cool or who’s who and that is a sort of freedom, our main priority is finding the best purveyors and building a relationship with them if you don’t you tend to get good stuff today and ok stuff tomorrow so we have already found a few purveyors who we are confident about.” (SC) The owners have undoubtedly taken a risk by placing so much responsibility on these young shoulders, it’s hard however to argue with the philosophy behind the food and the sheer chutzpah and drive that the couple exude.
Silvia Calierno and Jason Boteril
Cod served with beetroot and potatoes
One of the ideas behind the menu at Toto is that is will be continuously updated reflecting seasonal produce, Slow Food and km0 philosophy some ingredients however like the burrata, the embutidos or prosciutto etc are not going to be possible to find locally, “eventually we would like to get to that point but right now we are sticking to the Italian products that we know and that we have worked with before.” (JB) Once relationships have been consolidated with purveyors the idea is to work with them as they have in California and adapt the produce to the menu. “Coming from San Francisco, California and even London Italian food and products are so in your face but here even though it’s really close … the Catalan food culture is so strong every table wants jamón and pan con tomate but we are trying to differentiate ourselves we can’t compete with that and we don’t want to, we want to offer something different.” (JB, SC) Renowned Italian restaurants like ‘I Buoni Amicci’, ‘Xemei’ and ‘Il Giardinetto’ appeal not only to the Italian community resident in Barcelona (the most numerous of all ex-pats in the city) but to a general public. How will Toto avoid the clichéd pasta and pizza dishes that are normally associated with the country, “they are the dishes that change the most every day we have at least three different pizzas and at least two different pasta dishes, we take risks with these. It’s also true that in every culture people like predictable comfort food that they don’t have to think too hard about.” (JB)
Sirloin steak served artichoke and pumpkin
Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters is much more than just a chef, she is an advocate for sustainable food and a political lobbyist who managed to convince the current residents of the White house to start a vegetable patch. Similarly Silvia and Jason are not merely chefs who cook Slow Food but second generation disciples. “When I walk into a grocery store I don’t even see tomatoes, during the winter serving produce that is not in season is not an option mostly because it just doesn’t taste good. It’s about being sustainable and not throwing away products about being thoughtful not only because they are valuable but because people have spent their lives cultivating these foods that have come to us and we have the privilege of looking after and bringing to the customer.” (SC). Determined to open our eyes to the foods that previous generations took for granted such as nettles and chard as well as drawing attention to sheer perfection of the ingredients themselves their mission is one that is not only located in a beautiful setting but one that tastes good as well. Although perhaps slightly incongruous the marriage of Slow Food and Barcelona designer chic with cocktails thrown in for good measure only time will tell whether Toto is merely good in parts or manages to confect these normally disparate ingredients into a satisfying whole.
Nemesis chocolate tart with crème fraiche
Views of the open plan kitchen
Main dining area
- Toto Restaurant & Wine Bar, C/ Valencia 246, 08007 Barcelona
- tel. 93 467 6729