Since its opening in 1989, Toscana has established itself as a sophisticated Hollywood celebrity dining spot in Brentwood. However, its more recent, 7-year-old addition, Bar Toscana has made a name for itself as well. I recently met some friends at the bar to try their new stuzzichini, or finger foods, menu.
Executive chef Hugo Vasquez, a member of the founding team, believes the best food is the simplest dish. “You don’t need many ingredients as long as you have the freshest,” Vasquez said.
The warm and inviting space of Bar Toscano features brick-red leather chairs intermingled with taupe leather banquettes. Kathie Gordon and local designer Kathleen Hunt recently added a contemporary twist to the space with aged oak tables finished with a distinctive copper trim.
As I walked inside, I noticed how full the bar was with guests chatting and enjoying an array of authentic Italian cocktails and shared plates inspired by the luxurious Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy.
Towards the back of the lounge is an innovative and eye catching digital projection of floral art, created by acclaimed artist Jennifer Steinkamp. There are also four original collage pieces by Los Angeles-based artist Melissa Wenke, providing bursts of vibrant reds, orange, greens and blues to the space.
Some of my friends ordered an Aperol Spritz, while others sipped glasses of Negroni, as they enjoyed an artfully plated Tagliere di Salami served with homemade bread sticks and giardiniera (an Italian relish) with homemade strawberry, red onion jam and assorted breads. Burrata layered on bread with speck and green heirloom tomato jam was another stuzzichini.
A bright yellow dish, Insalatina di Barbabietole combined layers of yellow beets, a sprinkling of goat cheese, a few pickled plums and chopped hazelnuts.
However, my favorite was the Involtini di Melanzane served in a black cast iron dish. The beautifully rolled eggplant was filled with ricotta cheese and baby spinach and was surrounded by a light tomato sauce and adorned with basil leaves.
Another winning dish among the foodies at my table was the Lasagnetta di Carne made with homemade spinach lasagna, a thick beef ragu and besciamella (an Italian béchamel sauce) with shaved Parmigiano.
We ordered a few pizzas and savory T-bone beef sliders with truffle cheese and caramelized shallots. The flavor profile of the small sandwiches immediately produced smiles all around the table.
The chefs at Toscana make a variety of interesting wood-fired pizza, including a classic Margherita with melted Bufala Tartufo, and a Tonno e Cipolla with tomato, mozzarella, Italian tuna, red onion and capers. I really enjoyed the pizza with gorgonzola, prosciutto and sweet figs. Visit an old favorite with a new finger food menu with a group of friends for an entertaining evening.
Bar Toscana is open daily from 5:30 p.m. to closing. $$ 11633 San Vicente Blvd. (310)826-0028.