Toscano & Sons Italian Market sits unassumingly in Westside quietly providing Atlantans with some of the city’s most consistent panini. For the better part of the past five years, the tiny emporium and Italian deli has offered up tasty sandwiches in addition to a variety of worthwhile cheeses, wines, and prepared Italian classics.
When owners Kathy Boehmer and John Reed opened Toscano & Sons back in 2006, Westside was a neighborhood waiting to happen. Even so, already established eateries like West Egg Café and Star Provisions made for a crowded marketplace. Yet in the shadow of these more noted restaurants, Toscano and Sons has been chugging along ever since. Regardless of the dramatic rise in nearby eating options, as a value proposition alone, the pressed sandwiches at T&S easily best anything in the vicinity.
A Small Space Packed with Options
Toscano and Sons sits in the Brickworks complex at the triangular intersection of Howell Mill, Marietta St, and West Marietta. Inside, a handful of wood tables immediately give way to the specialty shop’s multitude of diverse offerings. Those neatly arranged shelves are lined with sauces, olive oils, truffle oils, pastas, flours, butters, Italian sodas, and everything in between. While some of the items can set you back more than you might hope to spend, many of the goods at Toscano are very reasonably priced.
Intermittently distributed amongst the dry goods are a series of refrigerator cases and standing freezers. These hold a bevy of prepared meals, housemade sauces, pastas, sausages of all types, and other goods. Though I’ve never sampled any of those items, they all speak to the rustic ideal of homemade meals by grandma. Still there are more options in a small cheese case. In addition to a handful of cheeses found within, you’ll also come across a few antipasto/charcuterie options that are easily worth their price tags.
There’s also a quaint selection of Old World wines that deserves more of my attention. But despite the circumstantial lack of familiarity with the bottles, I very much appreciate the chalkboard map of Italian wine country. It’s personable and offers those nervous nellies a little bit of a guiding light in what can often be an intimidating process.
All together, this assembly of items alone make Toscano and Sons as competent as any “mom and pop” market (though perhaps that word is a slight misnomer). However, the true delight is in the back corner of the market where a sandwich station sits waiting to be explored.
Surely This Should Cost More
The handwritten sandwich board includes roughly ten items at any given time. Absent some of the cutting edge ingredients found elsewhere, the list of panini does include a diverse array of meats. While Toscano forgoes some of the edgier Italian cheeses in favor of more approachable varietals (primarily asiago and fontina), that does not in the slightest detract from the quality of the sandwiches.
Each panino is served on ciabatta bread that arrives fresh from the quirky Bread Garden bakery that is just a few miles away. The bread is consistently outstanding and usually offers a beautifully crunchy exterior that gives way to a soft and delightfully chew inside. Thankfully, you can pick up a loaf to-go or some sliced of the tasty meats for nothing more than a fistful of dollars. Additionally, don’t feel obligated to consume your sandwich on site. Though that is the ideal, they do hold up just fine with light travel.
Made to order, each sandwich is delicately constructed with no more than three or four items, carefully placed on the press and delivered to you soon thereafter. Bites are romantic due to their clean flavors, rich meats (when included), and simple list of ingredients. You don’t have to search for the flavor, it’s just there through and through.
At any given time, two or three vegetarian options are available and all of them seem to go down without a fuss. Perhaps the best sandwich on the menu is the namesake Toscano, a sopressata delight with fresh arugula and smooth fontina. The mortadella found on the Viola is a porktastic exploration of the palate that even Porky the Pig would enjoy. The porchetta, however, is a bit of a surprise in that the pork loin is thinly sliced … which is unusual in that porchetta sandwiches usually include hunkier chunks. Some will certainly satisfy more than others, but that’s as much due to personal preference than it is to any fault in the particulars.
All of this is well and good, as these sandwiches are fine markings of a desirable lunch. But what is utterly befuddling is the rock bottom price point. It’s almost unsettling handing over nothing more than $4.85+tax for a single panino. As these sandwiches can easily satisfy if the price were a few dollars more, that fact alone makes Toscano and Sons a true gem. While some might be deterred by the fact that these aren’t super stuffed sandwiches (you can +meat for just $.75), you’d be hard pressed to really complain.
Toscano & Sons Takeaway
While Toscano and Sons isn’t exactly unheralded, it isn’t exactly bringing in massive crowds. That’s a shame. In all the years I’ve been visiting Toscano and Sons, I’ve never walked out with a bad feeling. The staff has remained friendly, the service prompt, and the food consistently up to par.
Though some of the items have disappointed (the soups most notably) and the food may not show the full array of Italian culinary artistry, there’s a reason I continue to return time and time again. Toscano and Sons is not risky, and that’s just fine … because we all need comfort now and then.