Toto & Peppe is the brainchild of Antonio, who also captains Gennaro Delicatessen, a bustling authentic Italian deli about 30 seconds walking distance from Toto & Peppe, and Peppe, who's small businesses stretch to Blackheath, where he leads another Italian Deli and a Tapas bar and grill - Tziganos.
One of the first things I noticed upon entering the restaurant was the nature of the bar. Made of glass panels, it is completely transparent, letting you see a large portion of their menu in the flesh, (many restaurants don’t have this kind of openness to their menu - preferring instead to surprise their customers, for better or for worse!) This instantly gave me the reassurance that these guys were comfortable and proud of their produce, and as it all looked fairly scrumptious, it was also nice to see as a customer.
The layout of Toto & Peppe is modern and suave. As a self-defined restaurant come wine bar come snack bar, they effortlessly merge these mediums into their interior décor. Tables are spotless and presented neatly, each accompanied by glistening, large wine glasses ready and waiting for the connoisseurs; yet the television at the back is sometimes on showing Italian football or music, and customers can relax at the bar, chat with the staff or a friend in its nice, informal setting. Also, there is a larger than life painting of De Niro as you make your way to the restroom, which obviously adds massive bonus points.
Right enough preamble, on to the food!
A large menu is planted under our noses and we begin scrutinising it immediately. Their ‘Antipasti’ (appetisers) range is packed with variety, and includes a choice of seafood dishes, including Calamari, or mussels in white wine, to a light Bruschetta or a homemade soup, amongst much more. They then have a varied selection of Taglieri with a variety of cured meats, vegetables made in the typical Italian fashion (balsamic onions, sun-dried tomatoes, olives etc…) and lots of flavoursome pickled stuff ready to tickle your tastebuds. They also host an array of Panuozzi (a long ciabatta) - another option that’s good for sharing, and offers rib-eye steak, chicken breast dishes as well as brilliant ham, cured meats and vegetables. Before we can make a decision, however, a waitress comes over with a small plate of Bruschetta slices, seemingly complementary, smiles and sets the plate down. A lovely gesture and starter’s sorted!
Their Pizza selection is impressive and unique, showcasing many of Italy’s finest that you might not find often outside their country of origin, including their ‘Lombardia’, which comprises of stracchino (a unique cheese found in certain regions of Italy), roasted pumpkin, lamb’s lettuce, and parmesan…ever see that one listed in Pizza Express? Thought not. After much deliberation, I settled for the ‘Toscana’, an irresistible concoction of Tomato, finocchiona salami, artichokes, empales, egg, and pecorino toscano. Tom opted for the ‘Abruzzo’, another unique composition involving lamb, roasted peppers, percornio abruzzese, and mint. Both were fantastic. Strong flavours, large and filling, yet not too much to slump you into lethargy. The highlight was actually seeing Antonio crafting the pizzas before us, which was like watching a magician at work, as he effortlessly spun dough on his fingers high above his shoulders and designated ingredients with fastidious precision to the base, before calmly slotting it in their stone bake oven…
Itching to get back and try something else off their menu, we re-visited Toto & Peppe soon after to try some of their pasta dishes. Smaller in range than their pizzas, yet no less unique and authentic, we went in expecting good results…Just like their pizzas, their pasta selection is a representation of some of the most bespoke dishes found in Italy, including their penne al cinghiale - consisting of wild boar ragout, porcini mushroom, and pecorino cheese - not your everyday pasta dish for sure. I went for the Pasta Bottarga, a lovely dish of linguine pasta, garlic, chillies, parsley, and grated tuna roe. Subtle and light, yet filled with flavour, it was both intriguing and delicious. Tom stayed a bit closer to home and opted for the Tagliatele Bolognese, which he reported as being the best ‘spag-bol’ he had ever had, although we were not surprised…
On both occasions, customer service was prime and Antonio, master pizza-maker that he is, was kind, funny and friendly during our visit. As a family run business, Peppe and his team of staff are all fantastic people and great to be around, so it wasn’t hard to feel relaxed in their restaurant. We will definitely be returning to this gem of an Italian restaurant in Lewisham, (we didn’t have time for dessert so that will definitely be involved on our next venture!) and we are delighted to be supporting them here at the Lewisham Card.