Restaurateur Chef Dan Butler just can’t leave well enough alone. He’s re-invented his upscale Italian restaurant, Toscana, several times since the launch of his original Trolley Square endeavor, Griglia Toscana, which opened in 1991. Since then, Griglia Toscana has transformed into Tavola Toscana, and again into Toscana Kitchen+Bar. Next up: Piccolina Toscana, which opened in mid-October 2010.
As Toscana approaches its 20th birthday, it is undergoing perhaps its biggest transformation to date. “It’s been a long time since our last renovation and I’m really looking forward to being able to treat our customers to a new experience,” Butler explains. “I’m really excited about the fresh look and focus of the new restaurant.”
Butler began the renovation process with some ideas in mind, and once the initial blueprints were drawn, he shared them with some of his faithful customers.
“I began the process by pulling together a handful of people once a week; I cooked them dinner, and utilized them as informal focus groups. And though I’ve never asked anyone’s opinion before, I assured the participants that for one instance only, I’d have thick skin when they gave honest input,” Butler jokes. “But the exercise was terrifically valuable. Some of the most significant features of the final design came about as a result of interaction with my customers and these focus groups.”
Upon entering the new space, returning guests might become disoriented from all the changes. The floor is an Italian porcelain tile with an iridescent quality. The base colors are muted whites and grays with pops of exciting color coming from seating and linens. Rounded booths add to the hip décor and create areas for individual parties. The custom made high-top community table made of welded steel and rescued barn timbers is perched in front of the elevated pastry kitchen. A backlit, sheer black curtain defines the private area, where the backdrop is a whitewashed brick and stone wall adorned with vibrant original artwork by Vicki Vinton. A huge, rustic wooden hutch dominates another wall.
Toscana closed for renovation on October 3. Time lapse photography of the construction below:
But the biggest changes for the new restaurant are not cosmetic. “It’s more about a new attitude,” explains Butler. “We want to cook for people the way they want to eat today. We’ll feature small plates—everything will be available in smaller, less pricey portions of truly flavorful food. We’ll be open later into the evening so that people can stop in after parties, after work or after dinner in other restaurants for dessert. A high premium is placed on hospitality. Our servers will be nothing if not friendly. Times change and I think Piccolina Toscana will be very much a restaurant for these times.”