I was excited for Bar Toma…
I’m generally weary of restaurants in the smack dab of the Mag Mile but a pizzeria that also makes in house mozzarella and gellati? The Sicilian in me just drools at the thought, especially when the culinary mind behind the concept is Chef Tony Mantuano. You may have heard of him from ventures like Spiaggia and Top Chef Masters.
The second reason I was excited for dinner at Bar Toma, on a frigid night, was that I had the opportunity to dine with a fellow food blogger (we are a fun bunch). By the way, you should be reading Chicago Bites!
Without further ado, let’s get on with it.
I walked into Bar Toma and was welcomed by an open floor plan. The espresso bar initially caught my eye and peaking behind the corner is a dessert counter with various sorbets and gellati are housed. I found my dining companion already seated at a small table (the small tables are not conducive to holding multiple small plates) near the front of the restaurant. I enjoyed the rich wood tables and the dim lighting but overall, Bar Toma felt very much like Michigan Ave and I think it needs some character injected into it. One brick wall houses an assortment of empty picture frames. Not sure what they are going for but I was just underwhelmed. On the bright side, it was easy to have a conversation and was a welcome getaway from the cold. No star awarded.
No star this time around. Bar Toma reminds me of a great place for after work drinks and appetizers on the company dime. Bar Toma will not fall on my list as a restaurant to have a romantic meal with my special someone.
Red wine is always the answer for me. I picked the 2008 Ciro Riserva “Duca San Felice”. It was too thin a wine for what I was looking for but it went down just fine. Ninja star awarded.
I enjoyed the presentation of all the food. My favorite part is when two waiters brought over our pizza, presented it to us, then proceeded to break up the yolk and place it in front of us. That sparked the salivary glands. Ninja star awarded.
My dining companion arrived before me and decided to go ahead and order the Olives as a starter. They had the expected bitterness but they didn’t destroy your palate and the herbs accented the taste.
We then moved on to try two bar plates and something from the mozzarella bar. We picked the Treviso and Goat Cheese Crostini and the Rock Shrimp Polpette. I could have eaten another order of the crostini. The bread had the right balance of crispiness and softness (I hate tearing up the roof of my mouth on a piece of excessively crusty bread). The goat cheese was creamy and the combination of the treviso marmalade added an unexpected sweetness. Mantuano gets it right with this bar plate.
Unfortunately, the Polpette is another story. I had read several great things about the rock shrimp meat ball type plate which is accompanied by a spicy tomato sauce. I didn’t care for the texture and it didn’t seem like I was eating seafood. I only ate half of one polpette.
Next, we ventured to the mozzarella bar and picked the Hand-rolled Mozzarella Stuffed with San Marzano Tomatoes and Basil.
I loved this plate. It was simple and everything tasted fresh. The basil brightened everything up, all I needed was some good balsamic vinegar and I would have been all set (and maybe some more bread).
The difficult decision at our table was the pizza selection. We asked the waitress for some assistance and ultimately we went with the Uova e Funghi which consists of mushrooms, a cage free egg, and mozzarella.
As mentioned above, the presentation of the pizza came as a surprise and just made my anticipation grow. The pizzas are cooked in a wood burning oven (love it, my dream home will have one someday). This resulted in a fantastic crust that has a crisp bottom but still remains a slightly doughy texture with each bite. As for toppings, I love mushrooms…I love eggs. You put them together and you create a truly unique pizza. I enjoyed it but it made for an extremely rich pizza and I was glad we ordered other items because I don’t think I could put down a few slices.
I wrestle with this star but the crostini and mozzarella throw it over the edge for me, ninja star awarded!
Overall yummy in my tummy:
I may have given the star for harmony, however, I cannot give this star. Overall, I felt that Bar Toma was underwhelming, especially for the price point. There are many other restaurants (and specifically, Italian restaurants) that I would rather visit and they have a better price point. Bar Toma just doesn’t live up to the initial hype.
I was in the mood for a little bit of sweetness and numerous items caught my eye on the dessert menu. However, my dining companion and myself discovered our shared obsession for pistachio gelato so that made the decision easier.
I had extremely high expectations for this. There was no doubt in my mind that the gelato would be fabulous and leave me with a smile on my face. Once again, I was underwhelmed and disappointed. The gelato was extremely sweet, the pistachio flavor wasn’t bold enough, and we could taste other flavors (almond milk maybe?). No star awarded.
Bar Toma comes in at only 4/9 ninja stars!
The restaurant is still a newbie and there is plenty of time for Mantunao to turn the place around. There are some winners on the menu, he just needs to bring everything else up to that level.
Till next time, peace out food ninjas!