Tucked away, in plain and prominent sight, on a busy section of North East Road is a Mediterranean-inspired gem of a restaurant with only five tables. Christian Uppill, alongside wife Caitlin, their son Marshall, and barista extraordinaire Simone, have been busy making Il Toro unique and reliably delicious since July. They've introduced a new lunch menu, and are in the process of extending the licenced area to include the cosy section at the back of the restaurant.
"It feels better on the inside than you'd think from the outside" was my dining companions quote after being seated for a few minutes. Chris has done a fine job of respecting the culture his food is based in, he's even learned Italian and greets all his customers in warm Italian tones. The kitchen is in open view close by and as conversation bubbles away in the background, the lighting, the music, the aromas, and the menu quickly envelop you and you'll soon forget you're in Greenacres.
Chris grew up in the Clare Valley and was inspired by his mum to become a chef. Twenty-five years of travel and cooking at various hotels and restaurants around Adelaide has given Chris wide experience and passion for Mediterranean inspired food and culture. They took over in July and the sheer ingenuity and quality of the food has seen Il Toro go from strength to strength. Rave reviews making their way onto the internet amid growing awareness of this savvy little piece of Italy in Adelaide. Chris and his mum grow a lot of the herbs and vegetables and herbs themselves. Mum still makes pickles and jams on the farm in the Clare Valley and they're available at the in-house "Il Toro Markets" which also sells the house coffee blend...and other bits and pieces like authentic Arborio rice.
What is an Italian inspired pasta and espresso bar without amazing coffee? Simone works full time alongside the family and has been Chris's "partner in crime" since high school. She looks after the amazing coffee from a local roaster along with the warm front of house service. The coffee here is unique in the North East, it's the closest I've come to the coffee in Italy. Do yourself a favour and try it, I know you'll love it.
Cool aperitifs and cocktails dominate the drinks list. Think Aperol spritz, Cinzano Rosso, Aranciata, Chinotto, and Peach Bellini's. The wine and beer lists are a great mix of Australian and imported Italian wines and beers further adding to the sense of being whisked away to Mediterranean shores.
Once you kick off your experience with something to drink you'll find the menu simple and enticing. Entrée includes favourites like Sicilian Arancini Balls filled with porcini mushrooms, rose sauce and shaved grana padana. The oven baked white polenta with field and wild mushroom ragu and topped with roasted hazelnuts is executed so well that it's definitely something you can't make at home. The Tuscan platter tonight featured pickled fennel (amazing!), marinated artichoke, field mushrooms, sundried tomato, thin slices of deliciously smooth and tasty cheese, salami, prosciutto and ham.
A tempting range of pizza options features vegetarian options like the delicious "Alpini", truffled white sauce, wild mushrooms and Asiago cheese. It's a favourite of Chris's. We recommend the "Frutti Di Mare". The base is authentic, crispy, and light. The seafood toppings and fresh chopped herbs from the kitchen are delicious and the cheese is perfectly proportioned and creamy.
Handmade in-house, the pasta and gnocchi are the stars of the show at Il Toro and you can see and taste the difference that fresh artisan inspired pasta makes. We recommend the "Gigli Al Pollo", it's got pieces of free-range pan-fried chicken breast, smoked bacon, and field mushrooms. The creamy (but not too creamy) rose sauce is perfect. The pasta has an amazing firm texture and holds the sauce well. There's two delicious risottos and the menu is completed with a grilled chicken breast in a marsala cream sauce or a herb and hazelnut crumbed pork Cotoletta. The cotoletta is a delightful looking dish which drew envious looks from around the room as it was served at the next table.
The desserts are simple and home-made. We ordered the apple crumble and chocolate panna cotta. The crumble came served piping hot in an earthen pot with fresh cream. Even though they'd closed for the night at nine, the attention paid to the quality was noteworthy. It's rare to find places with honesty and originality like Il Toro. The chocolate panna cotta was almost gone before I had a chance to put my pen and paper down! Gelati flavours and other classics are on offer. Just ask Chris, Caitlin or Simone and prepare to be amazed!
They don't have a kid's menu as such but Simone told us the kitchen is "pretty flexible", and can whip something up to satisfy the children. Both of our kids thoroughly enjoyed the arancini balls and pasta anyway!
Il Toro does lunch between 12pm and 2pm and their piadinas start at $9.90. Piadina's are simple flatbread filled with herbs, meats, and cheeses. Once a poor man's lunch they're now one of Italy's biggest selling street snacks. Pizza and pasta are also available for lunch.
Il Toro is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 9pm (8pm on Sundays). You can drop in for a coffee and cake or order take-away, but step inside and be transported away from the busy backdrop of North East Road. Enjoy the slow food revolution taking place inside the coolest little slice of Mediterranean life in town. Bookings are essential...there's five tables. I hope you get one soon and enjoy it as much as we did.