Tolli's Trattoria Serve Up Classic & Modern Italian
Johns Island Eatery Pride Themselves On Authentic Italian Food Made With a Measure of Love
Jeff Walker, Restaurant Review
There are a plethora of so called Italian themed eateries in greater Charleston. Subtract the well known chains and those by title only and the list of true Italian restaurants is much smaller. Northerners understand Italian ristorantes and pizzerias are almost always owned and operated by those of Italian heritage.
With its beginnings dating back to the late 1930's in New Haven, Connecticut, Tolli's Trattoria has been serving up authentic Italian food and beverage to over four generations. The grand nephew and namesake of the Tolli's Anthony Peluso and his wife Giuseppina tired of Connecticut weather decided to bring their popular Italian fare to the lowcountry, setting up Tolli's Trattoria at 1803 Crowne Commons Way Johns Island back in late fall of 2019.
Although pasta dishes and marinara sauces may vary by location and family recipes, Italian restaurateurs agree genuine Italian food is closely related to making almost every entree' from scratch. Several of the artisans in the Tolli's kitchen can prepare mouthwatering dishes but none quite like Anthony and Guiseppina. And while she's not willing to divulge family secrets, she admits that each and every menu item carried out of her kitchen comes with an added ingredient of love.
The come as you are, where everyone is family atmosphere is welcoming but the marquee attraction at Tolli's is their food. An ample selection of appetizers, salads, specialty pizzas, main dishes, and eight signature pasta entrees including two prepared with fresh shrimp.
Want an standard Italian light bite that presents a bit southern, than the Aracini is your appetizer of choice. Two crispy shelled risotto fritters mixed with a medley of peas, chili pepper and pecorino cheese on a bed of our marinara sauce, served with more grated pecorino cheese on top. Think of them as Italian hush puppies. Easily fills a smaller eater, and ideal with a glass of red wine. Just saying!
Maybe going old school, order their Pasta Pomodoro, with your choice of penne or linguine served under a rich homemade marinara and all beef meatballs. Full flavored and incredibly filling!
Tolli's sometimes daily special Ravioli Capresi is becoming such a favorite it may soon be on the regular menu. House made ravioli shells stuffed with slightly salty Italian caciocavallo cheese, ricotta, and marjoram (citrusy herb) beneath a grape tomato infused capresi sauce, seasoned with EVOO, garlic and basil. Magnifico!
Another menu item sure to make the varsity bill of fare is their Spiedini in Carrozza Alla Romana. Put this small plate appetizer on the divinely delicious list. An abundant smear of fresh mozzarella filling layered inside a battered flaky sourdough crust, fried to perfection and topped with a creamy romana cheese sauce. The ideal light bite for two to share. Add a 12" pizza and a couple glasses of vino and you have an ideal date night.
What about their specialty pizzas. Just like in the old country Tolli's serve up a variety of one of a kind pies, focusing on the customary Neapolitan also called pizza marinara which is simply crust, sauce and seasonings. But don't freak out, Tolli's will prepare your made to order pizza anyway you choose, beginning with a white or red base, a variety of cheeses, and teeming with a plethora of toppings including anchovy, broccoli rabe (pungent greens), and Soppressata (Italian dry salami). 39 select toppings in all to accompany 11 signature pizzas.
The Nonno (Italian for grandparent) is as traditional as patrons can get. An exceptionally baked thin crust marinara based pizza covered in mozzarella, romano, mushrooms, diced garlic, and home-made Italian sausage. Like your pizza with a little zest, than the Tonino topped with Italian ham, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and diced hot peppers all on top a white (alfredo) sauce. An ideal way to invigorate the taste buds.
Of course they serve up killer veal and chicken parm dinner, as well as garlic knots, vegan friendly entrees, and for seafood lovers I offer up their steamed sauteed clams crafted with chili pepper, white wine, garlic & parsley complete with house made flatbread.
Want to leave Tolli's with an even bigger smile on your face. Just as rich as the pastas are, so are Tolli's delectable desserts. Giuseppina masterfully prepares all the sweet treats on Tolli's dessert menu from scratch and several ounces of love. Her Nonna's 'Famous Homemade Cheesecakes' are to die for. Rich and creamy after dinner delights that come in a variety of seasonal flavors.
Chocolate lovers may opt for the Chocolate Mousse aka a decadent blend of white & dark chocolate over moist sponge cake, all blanketed under a hazelnut glaze and shaved chocolate. Or maybe you and that certain someone could feast upon the layered Chocolate Fudge cake slathered with smooth chocolate butter cream icing, additionally tempting your taste buds adorned in shaved chocolate. You guessed right, it's chocolate to the max?
The restaurant is quaint with a center kitchen separating a small bar and dining room from another small counter area ideal for those dining alone. When weather permits there is opportunity to dine alfresco (open air). Tolli's offer a full bar, cocktails, select wines, domestic and craft beers including those from local breweries like Edmund's Oast, Munkle, Revelry, and fellow Johns Island neighbor Lowtide Brewing.
There is a big difference between Italian themed restaurants and those actually owned and operated by authentic Italians. Old and new school Italians celebrate food. To Italians a meal is a joyous dining celebration, where family and friends gather to enjoy good food and drink, alongside robust conversation. Tolli's is the epitome of a true Italian eatery.
Native Charlestonians visiting Tolli's will be delightfully transported to old Italy, with New Englanders as well as transfers from NY, NJ, and PA relishing in the smells and tastes they've become accustom to growing up. Tolli's is Italian to the core. My recommendation, when in Rome eat like the Romans do!
As sure as their menu is authentic Italian, Tolli's can accommodate parties, and or will provide catering for your special event. Dining in, weekends it's best to make a reservation. Open 11-9pm Tuesday thru Saturday. For more on all things Tolli's Trattoria visit https://tollistrattoria.com/