Let me begin this review by saying something about my restaurant reviewing and grading criteria. I try to review places that might be especially appealing for University of Richmond students. Dining off campus is particularly popular among Richmond students because we go to a small university with only a few on-campus dining options.
My star rating system measures the restaurants I visit in five categories: food quality, service, environment, pricing and overall appeal. The last restaurant I reviewed received four out of five stars for being a chic restaurant and lounge. Obviously I have to take into account the type of restaurant I am reviewing before I am able to give it an accurate rating. That said, Bocca Toscana Ristorante and Pizzeria is entirely average for a sit-down restaurant and pizzeria.
Located in The Village Shopping Center on Three Chopt Road, Bocca Toscana is a traditional Italian restaurant that has the potential to become very successful solely on the basis of its excellent location and close proximity to other staples, such as Ukrop's and Jimmy John's. Bocca Toscana, which is Italian for "Tuscan mouth," is family-owned and -operated. The restaurant opened in mid-December and offers a casual dining spot with standard Italian fare at very reasonable prices.
When you walk into Bocca Toscana, you see almost modern-looking beige booths and nacho-cheese orange walls. The walls are sparsely
decorated with small black-and-white photos of the proprietary family. You get the feeling it was someone's dream to open a family restaurant.
The menu offers no surprises, with all the appetizers, salads and soups that can be found at any casual Italian restaurant across the country. Fried calamari, mozzarella sticks and antipasto salad are a few of the traditional first courses available. They have a large selection of pasta entrees, all of which are very common, with the most exciting being a lobster-and-crab ravioli in a tomato cream sauce. The pastas are followed by several veal, chicken and seafood entrees also on the
traditional side. The rest of the menu consists of pizza with a wide spectrum of toppings, calzones and stromboli, and finally, subs and hoagies.
One of the things that pleased me about my meal was the portion size. If you consider the pricing, the portions at Bocca Toscana are very generous. All sandwiches come on an 8-inch sub roll with a decent side of fries for less than $8. The calzones are huge, about 10 inches in diameter, for $9. Most pasta is $13 to $15 and the most expensive meat entree is less than $22.
The one word that everyone in my party used to describe her meal was "good." No dish was exceptional, no dish was innovative or especially
original, but they were all good. Bocca Toscana is plain and simple Italian food at a good location and a great price. Though the food was satisfactory, there were a few major flaws with the ristorante and pizzeria. First, there is no bar. They offer three beers on tap, several more by the bottle and wines by the glass, but there is no bar at which to sit or get any other type of alcoholic beverage. This is most likely because they are aiming to be a family restaurant that welcomes children, but it could deter many Richmond students from dining there.
Also, it is possible to order pizza by the slice during lunch but not during dinner. This makes absolutely no sense to me as someone who enjoys anchovies on her pizza but can never find enough people to order an entire pie with the topping. It is just as easy to run a pizza cutter across a pizza at dinnertime as it is at lunchtime. Others at my table agreed that they would have liked to order a slice of pizza but instead were forced to get other entrees. So, unless your entire group wants pizza and wants it with the same toppings, Bocca Toscana is not the place for you.
The menu and wait staff boast a Bocca Toscana "special sauce" with a secret family recipe. Intrigued, each person at my table asked for a side of the sauce with her meal, but when it arrived we found it to be no more than a regular marinara sauce. Their pizza crust is on the thin
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side, although perhaps not as thin as a New Yorker like myself would prefer, but it follows suit with the rest of the menu as good, yet, unexciting.
Although the food selection at Bocca Toscana is mediocre, the wait-staff is excellent. Our waiter seemed excited and proud to be working there. He was very friendly and attentive, and he wasn't the only one who stopped by our table to ask if we were enjoying our meal. He separated our checks without a question and we all felt that he deserved a generous tip.
In my opinion, Bocca Toscana has a few crucial flaws that will prevent me from venturing back there in the near future. But, if you're looking for a superior alternative to Papa John's or Chanello's - as many of us are - then give it a try. The prices are in a reasonable range for most college students, and the location is ideal. Ultimately, for casual Italian
dining, Bocca Toscana gets the job done.
Contact reporter Brigid Beitel at firstname.lastname@example.org
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