MAXINE GORDON and family try out a well-established Italian in York

YORK'S eating-out scene is ever-changing. For every restaurant that closes, five seem to open. The choice is staggering, so any place that can boast of 17 years in business must be doing something right.

That's the achievement of Toto's, the family-run Italian restaurant on Fawcett Street, near the Barbican.

Run by Anthony Pugh and his wife Paola, Toto's is still going strong because it gets the basics right.

The staff are super friendly and welcoming, while the menu has all the usual suspects but a good range of daily specials too.

The interior hasn't changed much over those 17 years – and is all the better for it. It still has the feel of an unpretentious rustic Italian ristorante with its dark interior, wooden furnishings and plain crockery and glassware.

There were four of us – me, husband, teenage daughter and my mother. We ordered a round of drinks: a Prosecco for me (£5.70); a bottle of Peroni (£3.80) for my husband; a Diet Coke for my daughter (£1.90), and a large glass of red wine for Mum (£5.70). Our waiter, Stuart, brought us a basket of thickly-sliced, soft, white bread, which we dipped into a dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

We then enjoyed a starter to share: pizza garlic bread (£5.95), which was delicious and devoured in moments. The base was thin and crispy, on account of it being slathered in garlic butter, and then topped with a sweet and tangy sauce flavoured with tomato and basil.

The main menu boasts everything you could possibly want from an Italian restaurant – and more.

Pizzas range from £9.45-£9.95, and include a couple of unusual offerings including the Pizza Chef Special of cheese, tomato, Worcester sausage and a boiled egg; the Toto's Special of cheese, tomato, spicy sausage, ham, bacon and garlic, and the Calzone Kiev filled with cheese, tomato, chicken, mushroom and garlic.

There is a good selection of pasta, gnocchi and risotto too, all priced at £9.95, including several vegetarian options.

But our eyes – and stomachs – were more tempted by the special's board which included the likes of mixed seafood salad, king prawns, and deep-fried calamari for starters (all at £7.95); seabass fillets or salmon steaks (£18.95); ravioli lobster (£12.95); pork fillet marsala (£16.95); fillet stroganoff (£19.95), and fillet steak (£22.95) or chicken breast with a choice of toppings (£17.95).

Mum and my husband ordered the stroganoff, my daughter went for the ravioli and I picked the seabass.

Each was good, but if it were a competition, the stroganoff would have won first prize on account of the succulence of the beef which was tender, bursting with flavour and beautifully cooked.

The lobster ravioli was rich and came in a tomato and cream sauce laced with prawns. In hindsight, because of its richness, it would have made a better starter than main course, but was enjoyable all the same.

My seabass was cooked to perfection: the delicate meat glistening white and flaking easily off the skin. It was served with a medley of vegetables, including roasted tomatoes with olives and half a jacket potato on the side.

We were quite full, but for the purpose of reviewing decided to share two desserts. We ordered a chocolate fudge cake (£5.50) and a meringue with ice cream and raspberry coulis (£5.95).

My daughter particularly liked the fudge cake (a favourite of her's), declaring it suitably indulgent. The meringue dessert was probably the one disappointing note of the night: the base looked like one of those powdery white nests you buy in the supermarket, and my husband would have liked more ice cream than whipped cream as a topping.

But in the main, it was a very good meal, with terrific service. The bill for four of us, including two rounds of drinks came to £113.85, with £88.80 spent on food.

It's great to see that Toto's is still getting things right after all these years. May it have many more to come!

Toto's, 1 Fawcett St, York, YO10 4AH

T: 01904 466528


Food: Very good 4/5

Service: Excellent 5/5

Ambience: Italian 5/5

Value: Good 4/5

Reviews and independent and paid for by The Press