Tozi Restaurant Review, Pimlico, London
Take it Cheesy, Nacho Daddy, and Sconehenge Café. Yes, these are legitimate eateries whose names were given the green light by their owners before buying their neon signage and website domains and opening their doors to Joe Public. These puntastic names may be a little bit silly to some, but we absolutely love them here at FoodNoise.
Aside from the obvious exceptions above, however, have you ever wondered what the name of that restaurant on your local high street means? Or how much thought has gone into why your favourite restaurant is actually called what it is?
Let’s take Italian restaurants as an example. Generally, there are three naming conventions you might follow if you were ever to be in the fortunate position of opening an Italian restaurant in the capital.
1) Name it after the chef – the star attraction themself. Think Locatelli’s, Gino’s, or Carluccio’s.
2) Give it an easy, fun, and friendly name that just rolls off the tongue. Step forward Bella Italia or Ciao Bella.
3) Let your creative juices flow and find your inner purple prose, and hey presto. Bocca di Lupo (mouth of the wolf) or Circolo Popolare (The Popular Club) spring to mind.
Why, I hear you ask, am I waffling on about the importance of a restaurant name?
Well, as I made my way through the entrance from the hotel lobby of the Park Plaza Hotel Victoria into Tozi, I got to thinking that I had no idea what the name of the restaurant I was soon to be reviewing actually meant.
So, for those of you interested in etymology, the word Tozi is Venetian slang for a group of close friends. Upon learning this, naturally, my instant expectation was that it would be a great place to go as part of a group, and, hopefully, an establishment where I would instantly feel at home. Additionally, I’d earlier learned that Tozi was also celebrating its tenth anniversary, having survived the dreaded pandemic. So, expectations were soaring as I made my way in.
And once inside, the décor didn’t change my feeling one little bit, ultra-glamorous with a dash of 1940s sophistication thrown in for good measure. In fact, it might even have been Dirk Bogarde in his white suit from Death in Venice on the table next to me.
And in keeping with the celeb theme, anyone who caught Stanley Tucci’s recent TV programme on regional Italian cuisine may remember his visit to Venice, where he devoured plate-after-plate of cicchetti – small plates of delicious Venetian fare. And this is the theme of Tozi – little plates for sharing with friends. Only here, the cuisine comes from the length and breadth of Italy, so prepare yourselves for the best of all worlds.
Entering the lovely space, I was enticed to order a Negroni. But it quite easily could have been a Grappa, or a Mimosa, or indeed anything else Italian that took my fancy! Especially on a night like the one I went when a fantastic live band was tearing it up and singing, yes, you guessed it, ‘Tu vuo’ fa’ l’Americano,’ which, combined with the wonderful décor, immediately conjured up scenes from The Talented Mr. Ripley. Minus the murders, obviously.
In true Matt Damon/Mr. Ripley OCD style, one of my little quirks is that before going to a restaurant, I ring up everyone I can think of who might have visited before me and ask what their go-to dish is. And on this occasion, the response was unanimous. The Buffalo ricotta ravioli with black truffle. I’m not even going to describe this dish to you, just go there and eat it. But don’t stop there. You must try out the counter – don’t you just love a good counter? – for their cold meats. And I tried them all, the extraordinary coppa, the San Daniele, the bresaola, the salami, and some amazing Pecorino too. Tozi is also famed for its regional Ragù, and as we go to press, it’s lamb with Rustichelle pasta that’s on the menu, so go ahead and jump right in!
But for me, Tozi saved the best till last with its Pistachio tiramisu. I wonder whether, like me, you love the taste of pistachios but don’t necessarily want to go through the hassle of shelling them. If your response is a resounding yes. Then Tozi has the solution to your problem! Order it.
So, I now knew that Tozi means a group of close friends in Venetian slang, so by the time I left the restaurant, the sentiment was certainly ringing true for me, even though I’d only dined with one other person rather than a gaggle of pals. But that really didn’t matter. Friendly staff, amazing food, and superb house wines were all experienced amidst a brilliant party atmosphere.
I’ll no doubt be back with my own Tozi very soon.
Charles Pelham, FoodNoise
TOZI, Restaurant & Bar,
8 Gillingham St,
London SW1V 1HJ