With a name derived from Venetian dialect for a group of mates, Pimlico’s TOZI take a slightly tongue-in-cheek approach to their Italian-ness. You’ll find classic movies projected above the open kitchen, and language tapes being played in the bathrooms. The sprawling space of the dining area is bustling on the night we venture in; plates of cicchetti wing their way to tables of hungry young professionals, and staff set up tableside serving stations to dole out coiled mounds of tagliolini.
The menu at TOZI is extensive, bussing out everything from pizzetta, fritti and soups, to grilled meat and large sharing dishes. Not wanting to take responsibility for our own decisions tonight, my companion and I take every single recommendation our waitress has got going. This starts with the Scottish scallop carpaccio with orange and pink peppercorns (£12.50) - a rose-toned palette of finely sliced seafood shot through with juice and spice from the garnish. Even against layers of the aubergine parmigiana (£6.95) and one very gooey burrata (£9.25) this proves to be an all-round marvel.
We order two of the restaurant's renowned pasta dishes, which turn up in tandem. As the maccheroni with rabbit and taggiasca olives ragout (£8.75) is brought to the table, our waitress asks us to let her know which of the two we prefer - a simple enough question, for sure.
Three bites into the rabbit maccheroni and I think we’ve found a winner. If this was whipped up for me on a sulky Sunday evening I would be eating this dish straight out of the pan with a serving spoon. It is seriously high calibre comfort food, the sauce finding balance between robustness and light, salty olives and earthy rabbit.
Then the ricotta ravioli (£8.95) rocks up to the party.
TOZI’s signature dish, pieces of plump buffalo-ricotta stuffed pasta arrive almost obscured by a pile of shaved truffle. Would I eat a vat of this? Probably not, because there’s more than enough happening on this one small plate to keep your taste buds entertained. It’s rich, and quite seriously so, ricotta and truffle fighting for dominance, but kept in line by a buttery sauce. This is dish designed to be chewed, savoured and swallowed one small bite at a time.
Taking into account the particular difficulties of this Sophie’s Choice, I’m going to abstain from answering the previously posed question, on account of the dishes being wholly incomparable and equally sublime.
But also I choose that steal-your-girl ravioli.
After five plates of hearty Italian fare, my companion is starting to flag. She wants something light to finish the meal, opting for the TOZI Affogato (£6.50). It turns out that ‘light’ is maybe not the word you apply to this dish - a boulderstone of vanilla ice cream topped with crumbled pistachio and ceremoniously doused in hot espresso. Personally I had no plans to get off this decadent flavour train, so it was full steam ahead with the Pistachio tiramisu (£6.95). A very irresponsible pre-bed snack, if you like sweet, silky cream, sticky chocolate, coffee-soaked sponge and Pantone colour 2246 C, this dessert will certainly be meeting the criteria.
As friendly as the name would imply, TOZI has got more than a little in the way of Italian charm. From funny and attentive staff, to small plates that offer as much in the way of comfort as they do in culinary skill and unique flavour, this Pimlico gem is not one you’ll want to pass on.