Preview: Bar Toma
Bar Toma, which opened to the public today in the former Bistro 110 space, says two things about chef Tony Mantuano—he can make a damn good pizza (not a huge surprise), and he can note when change is required, and make that change. Bistro 110 opened in 1987; I don’t think I’ve been there since 2003, when a new college classmate’s mom from Kansas wanted to take us. But after a preview party at Toma last night, I can see myself ending up at the new spot a bit more often.
Why? The price point has been taken down a notch, and the menu is more conducive to a casual night out, highlighting sixteen pizzas as the main attraction. Mantuano eschews paper-thin Neapolitan for his own style of crust, which is puffy, chewy and addictive, especially when topped with fior de latte mozzarella, tomato and basil in a simple Margherita. This is due in large part to the quality of the cheese, which you can order in a grand tasting—teamed with mozzarella di bufala, ciliegini mozzarella balls, prosciutto, olives, veggies and giardinera for $39 (we didn’t say everything was cheap)—at the new four-seat mozzarella bar in the back. Other décor updates include bright red booths, a large arch cut out of the bar’s wall to open up sight lines between the halves of the restaurant, and a gleaming pastry/gelato counter and espresso bar in the front.
And as good as the pizza was, and as satisfying as the prosciutto-sage sweetbreads I tried from the list of Italian- and Roman-inspired bar plates were, and even compared to the beautifully crisp white I found (2010 Muller Thurgau from Alto Adige) at $10 a glass, that espresso bar is, hands down, my favorite part of Bar Toma. It’s open until 2am on weekends—which means something to do past midnight that doesn’t revolve around alcohol or really bad tacos. And, for you morning caffeine addicts, it opens at 7am daily.
Bar Toma (110 E Pearson St, 312-266-3110) opened to the public today.