Tuscan Kitchen Opens in Portsmouth
For the past month, Portsmouth has been buzzing with excitement over the long-awaited opening of Tuscan Kitchen Portsmouth – and for good reason. After attending the Grand Opening last month, and spending most nights dreaming about their roasted butternut squash cappellacci ever since, we are here to report that Tuscan Kitchen has officially joined the ranks of our favorite Portsmouth restaurants.
As someone who has shamelessly eaten my way through Italy (why tour the Colosseum when you can face plant into a cheesy plate of carbonara, am I right?), and has even gone as far as to take a solo day trip to Milan to satisfy a craving for Risotto alla Milanese (it's a story for another time), I tend to think I can recognize good Italian food when I taste it. So, when The Port's Mouth was invited to get an early look at the happenings inside the 17,000-square foot space located at 581 Lafayette Road, we promptly RSVP'd with a "hell yeah!" And did it exceed our expectations? Hell yeah!
In keeping with the tradition of serving antipasti as a first course, signifying the official beginning of the meal, we were immediately greeted with a stunning display of house-cured meats, olives, imported cheeses, freshly baked bread, and marinated vegetables. Around the corner, in front of the open kitchen, was a delightful spread of chilled seafood, including oysters, shrimp, and littleneck clams.
For our next stop, we found ourselves in front of the pizza bar, where we could choose from a variety of pizzas fresh from the 800-degree wood oven. While it's tough to choose a favorite, the classic Margherita is hard to beat.
And here's where Tuscan Kitchen officially won us over. As mentioned earlier, the roasted butternut squash cappellacci is a dish not to miss, especially for those who appreciate a well-executed (read: not overpowering) sweet and savory combo. The thin, delicate pasta was wrapped around a butternut squash filling, then topped with a sage browned butter sauce and freshly shaved Parmigiano Reggiano...but it didn't stop there. On the next burner, the chef prepared soft, airy pillows of gnocchi cooked to perfection in a creamy, buttery sauce. To top it all off, we finished with a delicious black truffle risotto served from a carved wheel of Parmigiano Reggianno. Dreams really do come true.
Secondo & Dolce
The final courses of the evening didn't disappoint either. For the secondo, we were treated to warm slices of juicy beef tenderloin. To finish, guests chose from a decadent assortment of fresh berries and house-made cannoli, cookies, and gelato.
The Short Story of Tuscan Kitchen Portsmouth
Owner Joe Faro has a soft spot for the Seacoast. "My business was born at UNH," said Faro, who got his start in the food business after borrowing his father's pasta maker while still in college. In the 18 years that followed, Faro grew his business, Joseph's Gourmet Pasta and Sauces, to over $60 million in revenue. After selling the business to Nestlé in 2006, Faro planned on retiring to spend time with his family. "Good thing I was terrible at golf," he jokes. It only takes sitting next to him for about 60 seconds to understand why retirement wasn't his thing. His seemingly boundless energy, unwavering work ethic, and dedication to quality has paid off well since he opened his first Tuscan Kitchen and Market location in Salem, NH in 2010. And through his success, he has remained impressively grounded and genuinely grateful - you can almost still imagine him as a young boy working in his parent's bakery, dreaming of one day opening up a shop of his own.
Since breaking ground on the Tuscan Kitchen Portsmouth development, Faro and his team have already started to make their mark on the Seacoast community. In addition to ongoing work with Lazarus House, Faro has taken interest in the Cross Roads House located across the street from the restaurant site. "When we were first breaking ground on the development, I saw Cross Roads across the street and went over there to check it out. Since it was around Christmas time, we ended up sending them a bunch of turkeys and adopted some families for the holidays. We're still involved with their organization, as well as the new food pantry in Portsmouth." Since, Faro and his team have continued to build on their relationship with Cross Roads and the community, and have hired clients of the organization to join their staff. "This type of work bonds guests, employees, and the community, and it is very central to our business."
To learn more about Tuscan Brands, you can visit their website here. We'd love to hear from you, too, so let us know about your experience at Tuscan Kitchen in the comments below!
Photography by Shane Buzzell of Crafty Beard.