Still going strong after 30 years? Review of Tosca, Derwent Street, Sunderland

Tosca Restaurant & Bistro, Derwent Street, Sunderland
Tosca Restaurant & Bistro, Derwent Street, Sunderland
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For a reliable restaurant that’s consistently good, Tosca is the real Italian job.

Tucked away on Derwent Street for three decades, this Italian family-run restaurant is one of the longest-running in the city.

Tricolore starter

Tricolore starter

Unlike its flashier contemporaries, Tosca barely advertises and has little social media presence, instead it’s word of mouth that keeps its diners coming back for more. You even have to ring, instead of using Facebook messenger or email, to make a booking – how old school.

We visited on a Saturday night when its tables were packed with couples and family groups, many of whom were on first name terms with the front of house staff – a familiarity often missing from trendy restaurants who have a fast turnover of staff.

And there’s much to keep the familiar faces coming back time and time again.

The decor is as warm as the welcome: nothing too flash, but it’s cosy with a duck egg blue colour scheme and retro poster adverts on the walls for Italian favourites such as Campari, as well as sepia images from the old country that help give it a traditional trattoria feel.

Linguine mare

Linguine mare

The menu’s also full of old faithfuls. It offers everything you’d expect from an Italian menu: pizzas, pastas, steaks, chicken dishes etc.

It’s all classic stuff, done well.

I chose the tricolore to start, which is well priced at £5.25 – I’ve certainly been charged more for less food at other restaurants.

It’s a simple starter, but a little creativity had gone into this one which was served as a neat tower of fresh mozzarella, tomato and creamily-ripe avocado drizzled with basil oil.

TLC had gone into my mains choice of linguine mare too, which was also well priced at £7.95. The pasta was so good, I’d have paid more. It had that satisfyingly freshness of home-made pasta, the kind so good you could eat it on its own with a smidge of olive oil and a dusting of Parmesan.

Pastas aren’t suffocated in sauces here, instead mine was served with a light tomato and garlic sauce with the linguine twirling its way around plenty of mussels, squid, prawns and clams.

My lack of a sweet tooth means I usually swerve dessert, but the home-made puds being served around us looked too good to miss.

Spoons in hand, we shared the sinfully-good chocolate and salted caramel torte on a peanut butter biscuit base with vanilla bean ice-cream (£4.95), a great medley of textures and flavours – especially the hint of salt – which was worth the extra gym session I had to fit in because of it.

I’m guessing they free pour the wine here as my large glass of house white (£5.95) was full to the brim – no complaints from me there.

Despite juggling multiple covers, including some large groups celebrating birthdays, our service was spot on and faultlessly friendly.

For authentic Italian dining with a real family feel, Tosca is just the trick.