Michael Toscano — an acclaimed chef known for his work at shuttered Italian restaurant Perla — has returned to NYC to open a new Italian restaurant in the original Perla space at 24 Minetta lane, at Sixth Avenue called Da Toscano. The Italian restaurant, a partnership with his wife Caitlin, is an amalgam of his cooking from his days at Perla, which gained two stars in the Times, and the couple’s Charleston, S.C. restaurant Le Farfalle, which has also been well-received.
It’s been a five-year absence for the duo, who both spent years working in New York, Michael at Perla and Babbo and Caitlin at Craft, Per Se, and Del Posto. Michael left NYC at the top of the game in 2015 to raise a family in Charleston, and he’s back five years later, to get back into the thick of things.
“The ability to come back and execute our restaurant dreams on the New York platform is something we’ve always wanted to do,” Michael says.
Italian regional cooking will take center stage in dishes like the lamb neck-stuffed agnolotti, a type of ravioli from the Piedmont region of Italy, or tajarin, another dish from the same region which features thin, ribbon-like pasta similar to tagliatelle and is served with vermouth, duck ham and crackling at Da Toscano. A pork chop comes wrapped in crispy pork belly and spiced with pollen collected from wild fennel plants and rosemary.
Quinto quarto — a rotating selection of three dishes that have different cuts of offal meats — is a nod to Michael’s time at Perla, while octopus carpaccio, one of the signature dishes at La Farfalle, is recreated here.
The drink menu is vast, and here too there is a focus on Italian wines and cocktails. The latter includes concoctions like the Cynar(k) and Stormy, an Italian take on the dark and story cocktail that comes with ginger beer and the bittersweet Italian liqueur cynar; and Sunset in Sicily, a creation with a Piedmont wine called Cocchi Americano Bianco, grapefruit juice, and Lambrusco.
The process of creating Da Toscano also involved revamping the Perla space: The rustic wood ceiling is now blue, and marble-topped tables, velvet chairs, and green leather banquettes appear throughout the space. In all, Da Toscano seats 62 people between the main dining room, a chef’s counter, and the bar.
“This is definitely very much my wife and I’s aesthetic,” says Michael. “It’s very elegant, but comfortable, inviting, and cozy at the same time.”
Caitlin will be running the day-to-day operations at their restaurant in Charleston, while Michael will oversee operations in New York, jetting between the two on a regular basis.
It’s a highly anticipated return. Michael got his start in the food world at the age of 16 working as a dishwasher at Houston restaurant Willow Creek Golf Club, and gradually made his way up the ranks. By 21, he was working as the sous chef at Babbo, and then went on to work as the executive chef at Manzo.
But he cemented his status as a star — chef Jeremiah Tower described him as a rising star who had already risen — after opening Perla with Gabriel Stulman’s Happy Cooking Hospitality in 2012. He quickly made himself indispensable at Happy Cooking also taking over chef duties at now-shuttered Chelsea French bistro Montmartre and the West Village seafood destination Jeffrey’s Grocery. He was arguably one of the biggest stars at Happy Cooking when he and Caitlin departed for Charleston in 2015 to raise their two children.
Caitlin too has has top-notch NYC restaurant experience having worked front of house at places like Per Se, De Posto, and Craft. The couple opened Le Farfalle together in 2016.
In New York, Da Toscano opens Wednesday, and will be open for dinner everyday from 5:30 to 11:30 p.m., and for lunch — which will start in a few weeks and offer a $36 three-course pre-fixe — Monday to Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.