This review was originally published in the Tiempo Dining Out section of the El Paso Times on August 23, 2013 as part of a series of monthly reviews that feature vegetarian friendly restaurants in the El Paso region.
I love when franchises I’m not fond of close down to make way for local businesses that have great food with a variety of vegetarian options. This was the case when San Francisco Oven on the westside closed down and Tosca opened in its place. The owners of Tosca worked closely with the owner and kitchen staff of Sunset Pizzeria (unfortunately now closed) to replicate and reinvent the recipes. The result was a different, much larger menu that combines flavors that reflect our city’s diverse culture.
The setup and atmosphere at Tosca is somewhere between a fast casual chain and a nice Italian restaurant. As you walk in, you’re greeted by both the ordering and payment counter. It can be overwhelming to have to look at menus posted on the front and left walls, as well as a whiteboard with specials. I suggest you grab one of the menus on the counter and sit down to look everything over. Then, you can revisit the counter to order without pressure, pay and seat yourself while you wait for your food to be brought out to you.
Everything at Tosca is made in house—from the sandwich breads and pizza crust (also available in whole wheat), to the sauces and salad dressings. Appetizers include small plates of mini pizettes, mini paninis, spinach dip, and hummus and roasted vegetables served with pita. The bruschetta pizzette is a roasted garlic and cheese encrusted mini pizza topped with fresh diced tomatoes, basil and a balsamic reduction drizzled on top. Everything tasted great save for the balsamic, which was overpowering and had a burnt taste.
The unique sandwich selection overshadows the pizza offerings, and each comes with red cabbage salad or roasted red potatoes that are perfectly cooked and seasoned with rosemary and spices. Tosca excels at creating zippy, flavorful condiments and sauces that make each sandwich notable.
The Vegan Pita has romesco, red pepper hummus, cucumbers, greens
and vegan tzatziki on pita bread. The tzatziki is a refreshing combination of cucumbers, mint, dill, garlic, and Tofutti brand sour cream in place of traditional yogurt. The other veg pita options are the Mediterranean Pita (baba ganoush (eggplant dip), greens, tomatoes, pesto, swiss, feta, almonds, and tzatziki) and the Portabella (portabella, shiitake, greens, sundried tomatoes, roasted garlic, balsamic).
If you’d rather have a sandwich with heartier bread, try the Hum Vee. A generous amount of wilted spinach, hummus, and roasted zucchini is sandwiched between warm, grilled panini bread that’s crisp on the outside and soft inside.
The Calzone De La Nona is not to be missed and is large enough to split with someone. Beautifully puffed up pizza dough is stuffed with a flavorful combination of mozzarella, ricotta, pesto, artichoke hearts, zucchini, and a three olive medley.
While the pizza doesn’t quite taste the same as Sunset (the difference in ovens could be to blame), the kinks at their initial opening have been worked out and the flavor is more comparable. Pizzas are individual-sized, but can easily be shared between two people. Four vegetarian pizzas are offered with a white roasted garlic base and mozzarella, or you can create your own pizza with a red marinara base with mozzarella. My favorite is the Spinach Sun dried tomato with ricotta and basil.
Don’t forget to check on the daily specials on the whiteboard, which includes combos and featured items like the Mean Green Lasagna. A quirky combination of green chile, serrano peppers, pesto, pine nuts, zucchini and cheeses manages to work well together creating a pleasing flavor that’s not too spicy. Other oven-baked pastas are available as well.
A large variety of elegant homemade desserts like Mango Mousse Cake, Tiramisu, cheesecakes, and more are on display at the counter, or you can keep it simpler with brownies, cookies, and peach empanadas.
In the course of a year, Tosca continues to serve tasty, affordable food, and now has wine and domestic and craft bottled beers. With a variety of vegan and vegetarian options, a kid’s menu and a casual atmosphere, Tosca is the perfect gathering place.
- Hours: Monday-Wednesday 11 am-10 pm; Thursday-Saturday 11 am-11 pm; Sunday 12-9 pm
- Twitter: @toscapizzeria