You can look all you like, but it's unlikely you'll find a more authentic Italian experience than La Tosca anywhere else. As popular as Italian cuisine is, it can be tough to find a unique experience. La Tosca in Villa Park achieves this with ambiance, class and fine food.
When you drive up to the restaurant on St. Charles Road, it immediately stands out for its exterior, with an Italian villa-style façade and terra-cotta roof. Inside, you find they've somehow turned a dining room with an immensely high ceiling into an intimate setting, featuring lots of dark wood trim and a few faux cracks on the wall – evocative of Italy's famously ancient architectural heritage.
As a dining companion and I settled in for a recent evening, we were presented with menus for dinner, the night's specials and wines. A nice touch on the wine menu are the suggested pairings of wines and meals. Knowing that I would likely opt for a pasta dish, I selected a glass of Ruffino Chianti. "Pair with pasta with tomato and grilled beef," the menu says.
For an appetizer, my companion and I shared the Mozzarella Alla Tosca, which layered prosciutto, mozzarella, roasted peppers, leafy greens and olive oil. It made for a light and savory enticement – very tasty.
Neither of us was in the mood for pizza, although La Tosca has an extensive list of options. I went for the Cannelloni Alla Romana: "Homemade pasta stuffed with meat and spinach with a basciamella tomato sauce." My companion was tempted by several items on the specials menu, but ultimately went with the Saltimbocca: "Veal medallions, sage, prosciutto, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese in a demiglazed wine sauce."
After I enjoyed a minestrone soup that came with my entree, and my companion had polished off a delectable garden salad, we were, in short order, presented with our main courses. Before even taking a bite, we knew we'd be leaving with take-home bags; the portions were attractively presented and so generous we knew we wouldn't be able to finish everything.
I will admit that I heat up a frozen dinner for lunch now and then, and store-bought cannelloni is one of my more frequent choices. Compared to what's served at La Tosca, the microwaveable meal can hardly be considered food. I found myself letting each bite linger for a moment as I experienced all the subtle shadings of flavor. And, as expected, half the entree ended up being my lunch the next day, and much better than anything I could get at the grocery store.
My dining companion said the veal medallions were tender and rich in flavor, and we were surprised to see that they also came with a side of pasta with marinara sauce. They really don't want you going home hungry!
For dessert, I went for the chocolate truffle gelato, and my companion chose the profiterole – mini cream puffs in a chocolate mousse – which our server confessed was a favorite. We ended up sharing each other's portions, and, if pressed, I'm not sure I could choose between the two, as both were extremely rich and sweet.
You might feel inclined to dress up for La Tosca, given its elegance, but there's no dress code. It's quite a feat – a restaurant that manages to be both cozy and classy, and a terrific choice for an exquisite Italian dining experience.
The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Suburban Life Media. The diner's identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Only positive dining experiences will result in published reviews.
WHERE: 123 E. St. Charles Road, Villa Park
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday; 3 p.m. to midnight Saturday; closed Monday
DRESS CODE: Casual
INFO: ristorantelatosca.com, 630-832-5300