437 29th St NE, Suite A, Puyallup

No spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, or pepperoni pizza are on the menu at Toscanos Café and Wine Bar. With a passion for food, unparalleled creativity, and years of experience, chef/owner Tom Pantley has taken Italian food to a new level.

The dining room is warm and inviting, yet elegant. Soft lighting glows dimly on rich wood. In the corner, embers glimmer in a stone fireplace, gently illuminating muted gold and terra cotta walls. We feel immediately comfortable and at ease.

A touch of sherry adds depth to housemade cream of mushroom soup. Tuscan onion soup bears a mild resemblance to its French cousin; a rich stock featuring roasted onions is topped with garlic croutons, chopped scallions, and melted provolone cheese. The seasonal chanterelle appetizer is sautéed in butter, garlic and rosemary, then garnished with a sprig of the fragrant herb.

Toscanos’ house salad combines mixed greens with raspberry vinaigrette, tomatoes, hazelnuts, and dried cranberries; the Caesar is light and lemony. Crunchy herb bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping accompany the salads.

My husband ordered the ahi tuna filet; it was wrapped in prosciutto and served rare on delicate angel hair pasta. Prepared in a sauce of red wine, figs and grapes, the entrée is an elegant marriage of sweet and salty. I had tender ravioli filled with a creamy blend of ricotta and mascarpone and served in a brandied gorgonzola sauce. The salty bite of the Italian blue cheese was evident, but not overpowering.

The desserts served at Toscanos are created by Pantley’s wife, Cindy. My husband enjoyed her signature chocolate raspberry cheesecake. Plates are garnished with raspberry and chocolate sauces and a dollop of whipped cream. I savored delicate tiramisu. The sweet mascarpone topping is light and fluffy; the ladyfingers are subtly flavored with an espresso and coffee liqueur syrup. The classic dessert is cut into squares and artfully presented in a martini glass.

Every Tuesday Toscanos features a cocktail promotion with trivia, contests and giveaways. During “March Madness,” new innovative martini-style beverages will be debuted. Those cocktails will be served in hand-painted souvenir glasses; the design will change each week.

In the 1980’s and ‘90’s, Pantley was chef and co-owner of Balsanos, a Puyallup institution which later moved to University Place. Several of Balsanos classics can be found on the menu at Toscanos. It’s a good marriage of old and new, and those who have dined at Balsanos will recognize some of their favorites–cioppino, veal marsala, and chicken saltimboca, to name a few.

As he points out, the eatery is anything guests want it to be—a special occasion restaurant or a casual trattoria, a place to unwind and enjoy a good meal.

And Tom values the relationship he has fostered with the community. Every September, Toscanos gives back by partnering with Good Samaritan Hospital to raise money for their Children’s Therapy Unit. “The Puyallup community has been so good to us at the restaurant,” business partner Susan Walker said. “We were looking for a partner that was kid related to raise money and help children’s lives.”

An individual who is passionate enough about what he does to say, “I’ve always loved to be creative with food, but being connected to the community makes it even more fulfilling,” is a lucky man.

Janae Colombini