As our tier four neighbours once again rummage through their pantry’s stockpile and scratch their heads for recipes which include chickpeas, three-hundred weight of pasta and a gallon of hand sanitising gel panic-bought in the early days of COVID-19, we lucky Islanders had the choice of three new restaurants around Sts Thomas’ Square, Newport alone.
Newport Fried Chicken looks mighty promising and, if the funky chicken branding is anything to go by, indicates good attention to detail which we hope to discover reflected in the fast food in due course. Saint Pizza appears equally well considered, with its conspicuous pizza oven flaming invitingly.
It was Italian restaurant Toto that drew us in though. Ahh, Toto. Hopefully this simple name will not be as woefully mispronounced at the venue’s previous incarnation Olivo. No more do we have to cringe at the extra ‘i’ or superfluous ‘s’, rendering Ohh-lee-voh into Olivio’s. Maybe Toto might become ‘Two-two’ or perhaps Toto’s in due course. Or maybe it will always be known as “Where Olivio’s used to be.”? Whatevs.
We were welcomed by a familiar face, which underlined the fact that Toto is from the same stable as the successful Olivo and its newer cousins, Ryde’s Fumo33 and Cibo in Wootton: both of which we are happy to recommend. This boded well for a decent Mediterranean feast. The menu was pizza and pasta-based, and keenly-priced to attract those who previously ate at the nearby now-closed Pizza Express.
Gnocchi (extra chicken and broccoli) £10
Calzone bianca £10.50
We shared our bruschetta starter, which was easily big enough for two. There was always a chance that this might turn out to be an inconsequential yet brittle piece of toast with a single chopped tomato losing its battle for tongue-time with diced raw onion (as has been our previous experience elsewhere). But no. A vast slab of sourdough pizza bread was expertly laden with drizzles of flavoursome Genovese pesto (presumably named for the town Genoa, rather than the American Mafia crime family), a sparky tomato salsa and some sprigs of peppery rocket. Fiori di latte – cheese curd to the likes of you – plus the oils in the pesto, kept the dough shiny and succulent. There was plenty to share and, at four quid, this dish was excellent value too.
Matt finds it hard to resist a calzone pizza, and didn’t. The calzone bianca at Toto was laden with a steaming hot cargo of spicy nduja, broccoli, ricotta and mushroom. Matt ripped it open eagerly, the delicious nduja smell rising. This was a great combo, with the spicy sausage meat mixing pleasingly with the mellow ricotta.
Delivering the bowl of gnocchi to Cat, the waiter admired her courage in ordering what, despite its seemingly modest size, was actually a substantial meal. The soft dumplings were slathered with creamy wild truffle sauce which married nicely with the sour notes of the parmesan shavings, pimped with extra chicken and tenderstem broccoli customising this gnocchi treat. Despite desperately wanting to finish this splendid dish, Cat found herself defeated in the end and actually left some of the delicious parmesan-laden gnocchi to Matt, which he relished.
With both of us very well fed by our first courses, we had to forgo a dessert. A shame, as Cat would undoubtedly have ordered the ten-inch Nutella pizza for pudding. So that will have to wait until next time.
We were delighted with the new Toto. It’s going to be hard not to compare it with Olivo, and whilst it does not have the menu scope, it does have the same welcoming, informal feel and satisfying, substantial food with some excellent Mediterranean flavours. A great addition to the Island’s food scene.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Wonderful flavours
- Decent portions
- Pleasant environment