By Lesley Snyder
Richmond, Vt. is defined by relics of the past: the years that have sculpted the infamous Huntingdon Gorge and preserved the Old Round Church. Toscano Café and Bistro is a fresh slice of modern cuisine blended with classic fare, a hub of grub on a seemingly sleepy street. Chef Jon Fath and wife Lucie Bolduc-Fath have owned and operated Toscano for a decade. With the help of their sons tending bar and tables, their restaurant has been a gem to Richmond diners. Toscano is humbly impressive. Its demure exterior, brightened by the many flowers Lucie has planted, gives modest indication of the warm and familial atmosphere awaiting guests inside. The covered patio suspends time and weather, a comfortably intimate setting for a summer meal. Upon my first visit, I was put at ease immediately. Large windows are trimmed with lace curtains and cradled by flower boxes, the dining room is bustling, and I feel as if I am kin rather than customer. The full bar is framed in pale wood, soft lighting, and stemware sparkling from the ceiling rack – and its coziness might just make you want to buy the next round of drinks.
While “Toscano” is Italian for “Tuscan,” this business is not all penne and parmesan. The bread and butter of this restaurant is the medley of Mediterranean and modern American cuisine. On a rainy Sunday morning, I’m here for brunch, and Toscano’s menu showcases the Faths’ talent for the finer side of casual dining. Summery cocktails, seafood appetizers, and beef burgers from LaPlatte River Angus Farm in Shelburne – this once-a-week brunch menu is a sight for sleepy eyes. Toscano honors tradition by serving bruschetta, an antipasto featuring some of the best flavors of summer. Piled high with ripe tomatoes and seasoned with fresh basil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and a dash of salt, the bed of buttery bread delivers a satisfying crunch to this fresh and simple appetizer.
While Toscano offers such sumptuous entrées as Warm Duck Leg Confit and Chicken Piccata, my reservation is for 10 am, so I opt for the breakfast menu. From the skillet or the griddle, the brunch options are prepared to perfection. Even the English muffins are baked fresh, and they rise well above their off-the-shelf counterpart. The Spinach Omelette is cooked beautifully, folded over a mix of creamy feta and more juicy tomatoes – but a condiment stole the show. The ketchup is house-made, and it’s remarkably delicious: sweet and savory without the syrupy bite of the store-bought sauce. With a flair for both classic and contemporary dishes, there is something for every palate on this menu.
Toscano is not strictly a nuclear unit. Jon and Lucie welcome the extended family of Vermont businesses to the table. The French toast is built on Red Hen Bread (baked in Middlesex), and Grand Isle Homemade Ice Cream is available to finish off any meal. And the great thing about brunch is that it’s perfectly acceptable to finish it off with dessert. The Berry Tart du jour is everything I want in a sweet treat on a dreary morning. From oven to table, sweet fruit stays sumptuously warm beneath a crust of oat breading. Paired with a scoop of Grand Isle mango sorbet, summer never tasted so good.
The dining room suggests a comforting transparency. Fresh flowers sipping tableside from a Pellegrino bottle, and the kitchen separated by a mere curtain, there isn’t a better place to feast with and among friends. There’s no gimmick here at Toscano; it’s family working together to serve delicious food, provide friendly service, and create a superb dining experience.
Toscano is located at 27 Bridge Street in Richmond. The dining room is open Tuesday to Thursday 11:30 am-8:15 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am-9 pm, Sunday Brunch 9:30 am-2:30 pm, and Sunday Dinner 4:30 pm-8:15 pm. Lite fare is served daily from 2:30-4:30 pm. Reservations can be made by phone at (802) 434-3148.