There was a lot of buzz surrounding Bar Toma when it first opened, but on a recent Friday night I was able to get in last minute – at 7:30 pm – with a table of 4. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled. I’d been wanting to try Bar Toma and didn’t have to plan ahead to do it (yes, my typical m.o). But this also concerned me: is Bar Toma destined to become no more than a vanilla Mag Mile stop for hungry tourists?
To start, there were three very good things about Bar Toma. First, the service. Our waiter was attentive, patient, and helpful. Second, the wine list, which was full of reasonably priced options by the glass and bottle. Third, the pizza. In a city of deep dish and flatbread, it can be hard to find a pizza somewhere in between: not greasy and thin enough to be healthy but with enough chew and substance to be satisfying. Bar Toma’s wood fired pizza knocked it out of the park (note: Nellcote’s pizza is great like this too). Add to that original pizza concepts – I loved the lamb sausage with pistachio Marguez and fingerling potato with pancetta Penso Positivo (both recommended by our waiter) – and I’d go back to Bar Toma for the pizza alone.
- Penso Positivo Pizza
Unfortunately, there were also some dishes that were just plain mediocre, all of which fell in Bar Toma’s antipasti category. The seared calamari and octopus was particularly disappointing: two over peppered pieces of calamari unbalanceable by the accompanying fennel and orange, and an embarrassingly small portion of octopus so burnt to a crisp that I was sure the chef meant for it to be discarded, not plated.
- Seared Calamari and Octopus
The Nonna’s meatballs were rather bland, the hand-rolled and stuffed mozzarella looked like anemic pinwheels, and the charred carrots with a dollop of goat cheese were borderline ordinary.
- Charred Carrots (the Hand Rolled Mozzarella behind it)
It seems to me Bar Toma is at a critical juncture. It has the ability to be a great pizza place and also make a ton of money given its ridiculously heavy foot traffic location. However, it’s got to get its other dishes together (or get rid of most of them and just focus on the pizza). Otherwise, Bar Toma will languish at good enough, and in this city of amazing restaurants, good enough just doesn’t cut it.
Try Bar Toma 110 E. Pearson St.