Tuscany il Ristorante has been a destination for authentic Italian cuisine since its opening more than 20 years ago. Its Owner, chef Tommaso Barletta, was born on the southeast coast of Italy in the town of Bari. He dreamed of excelling in the culinary arts. As a result, he attended an Italian Culinary Institute and securing an apprenticeship with famed French chef Charles Vigny.
A Chef’s Story
Meanwhile Barletta’s sense of adventure and love for travel led him to various experiences cooking around the world. But hat was, until 1980, when he co-opened Adriano’s in Bel Air, followed by Rex il Ristorante in downtown Los Angeles. A few years later, he opened his own café in Camarillo. After that, he discovered beautiful Westlake Village in 1987, Barletta and opened Tuscany il Ristorante.
The entrance at Tuscany takes diners past the martini bar into a white-linen clad dining room. There, servers first delight with offers of crisp crostini with tomato bruschetta. The menu offers more than 30 regular items and nearly 20 specials. To clarify, there are Italian favorites that Barletta has put his spin on. There’s the seafood crudo, al dente pasta with sharp Parmesan and Romano cheese and a veal chop with a puree of potatoes and a pan gravy. Moreover, desserts like homemade crème brûlée with just the right amount of caramelization are not to be missed. Likewise, the wine list wonderfully pulls it all together.
I recently sat down with the celebrated chef to discuss how he took his restaurant from ordinary to extraordinary.
Chef Eric Kopelow What made you decide to become a chef?
Chef Tommaso Barletta In junior high, we had presentations from professionals pitching their businesses or careers to us to motivate our future. Well, in comes this gentleman dressed as a chef, and he proceded to make—in the classroom—“Crepe Suzette.” After tasting that dessert, I decided that was my calling.
Chef Eric When at home, what do you like to cook?
TB Simple pasta and a roast. I like to grill too.
Chef Eric Who do you most admire and why?
TB I have worked for and met many culinary giants. But I had the opportunity to cook for Julia Child several times with my friend Max Müller when she lived in Montecito, California. She was in love with my baby artichokes. I would love to have a dinner with Mozza chef Nancy Silverton. She has incredible talent and passion. I admire her. My mother was a great life inspiration for me. Her strong personality taught me to never give up until you reach your goals. I miss my mother very much, but she is always in my thoughts.
Chef Eric What three ingredients in the kitchen do you like to cook with?
TB The most important ingredients in my kitchen are celery, onions and carrots. The kitchen’s holy trinity. I always keep a good soffritto at home and I use it in almost all my recipes.
Chef Eric If you could go back to the age of 20, knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently?
TB I wouldn’t change a thing. I have been very fortunate. I am doing what I always dreamed of doing. I love the way food brings people together and the happiness that is shared at a table.
Chef Eric What is your favorite restaurant anywhere in the world?
TB I was introduced to Casa Perbellini in Verona by my good friend Marcello Muolo, an exceptional gourmand. After 16 courses and some incredible wines, I declared it as the most amazing dining experience of my life.
Chef Eric What is the most popular item on your menu?
TB One of the most popular dishes is the pistachio-crusted Alaskan halibut. Secondly there is the caramelized Chilean sea bass in coconut broth with lemongrass. Further guests are fond of the dry-aged bone-in ribeye and pork chop alla Mario. This dish was inspired by my brother-in-law and then there’s the Wisconsin veal loin chop. Of course, our pastas, especially our Bucatini Cacio e Pepe served tableside, are not to be missed.
Chef Eric What is one of your favorite specials you sometimes feature?
TB One of my favorite specials is the Berkshire pork chop. It’s pounded thin, dipped in olive oil and lemon and coated with panko and fresh herbs. Then it’s charcoal broiled for that charred taste. We serve it with a fresh sage sauce on the side. Yummy.
Yummy indeed. As they say in Hollywood, “That’s a wrap!”
Tuscany il Ristorante
968 S. Westlake Boulevard, Suite 4
Westlake Village, CA 91361
Certified Executive Chef Eric Kopelow (cheferickopelow.com) is an award-winning American-born chef with world-class credentials. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, a member of the American Culinary Federation, and has been the WLM Culinary Editor for seven years.