Italian fare is not necessarily the dominant ethnic food in Tucson. Yet there are several “ristorantes” around town. Add to that a number of pizza parlors and you don’t need to travel far for a marinara fix. We have visited several of these places from time to time. And we always find ourselves comparing the sauces, pasta, pizza and price to Caffe Torino (Oro Valley and Foothills). In my opinion, Torino is one of a very few that gets it right (the Italian way) every time. Chef/owner, Daniela Barella, re-booted the business about nine years ago. She began with a breakfast and lunch menu at Lambert and La Canada in Oro Valley. As business grew it was expanded to include a complete bar, dinner service and al fresco dining. Then a second Foothills location came on line at River and Craycroft.
We’ve eaten at both locations and favor the outdoor dining area on River and Craycroft. However, the Oro Valley spot is very convenient. And each of these locations has good service and indoor ambiance. Oftentimes we dine out at Torino during the week and find business to be brisk. They have a good following throughout the year.
The dinner items that we have sampled are good quality, salads are fresh and the wait staff is always on point. We think the prices are fair and portions are good-sized.
Our samplings have included the margarita pizza. It comes oven-fired with a good amount of melted mozzarella, fresh basil and a savory, good tasting sauce. We have tried the shrimp (large) wrapped in pancetta accompanied with tomato slices, basil pesto and served on a bed of arugula. Molto bene! The entrees we have enjoyed include the eggplant Parmesan (very tender) and served with a side of penne. The tagliatelle Bolognese is excellent. The pasta is tender and fresh and covered with a generous portion of tomato and meat sauce. Another highlight and house specialty is lasagna constructed with tender pasta layers, marinara and an interesting béchamel sauce.
Table service includes a basket of light and freshly baked focaccia bread along with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. Dinner entrée prices range from $15 for eggplant to $25 for cioppino along with a range of other items and daily specials. The liquor list includes both draft and bottled brews and interesting wines for a range of prices. Further details can be found at: www.caffetorinotucson.com. Reservations are recommended.
Torino offers a number of tempting desserts although we rarely save room for them! But we have enjoyed the freshly brewed espressos and cappuccinos.
We place Caffe Torino high on our list and we enjoy returning time and again.
(This article first appeared in the Saddlebag Notes print edition February 2017)