Our formal dinner at TusCA, housed inside the main registration building of the Hyatt Regency Monterey, actually started with a wine tasting in a special section reserved precisely for this kind of thing. Pairings presented by the chef were eagerly tasted along with some delicious wines from Twisted Roots that I’ll be talking about in the coming days. Let’s just say that the pairing nibbles were so decadently wonderful that we were eager for the upcoming meal of California cuisine. We were not disappointed.
TusCA Ristorante is billed as offering a taste of Tuscany and California. Bursting with flavor, everything I had at this Monterey restaurant was farm fresh and appealing. Even when something was unexpected (like the pasta I ordered, it was an enjoyable detour from the usual). And for those of you wondering, the wood-fired pizza oven inside TusCA was, in fact, how that insanely good pizza I mentioned was made (Fireplace Lounge’s food is produced inside TusCA’s kitchen).
The entire area has a remarkable open quality while still maintaining a sense of intimacy. There are still cozy corners, along with long, group tables for celebrations. The kitchen is also relatively open to the public’s eye, and that tantalizing glimpse is enough to make your mouth water.
Dinner was a lively affair. Discussions with other travel writers are almost always fun, and our host and his wife were delightful (and happy to share insider tips on the best dishes, wines and spots to visit in the area). It was the GM who suggested the roasted pork chop for dinner, and Andy was eager to try it (and I admit that I took more than a small taste of his). It was a big hit, and the candied garlic sauce on the top was the perfect flavor complement.
I was looking for something lighter, and I ordered the angel hair pasta. Once again, the tomatoes were a stand-out. Fresh and slightly sweet, they worked well against the pesto and cheese. I very much enjoyed it, but it was considerable heavier than I anticipated. Keep that in mind when ordering. Still, I’m never one to back down when presented with rich tastes, and they worked well with the Twisted Roots’ wines that we continued to enjoy throughout the evening.
As a side note, there are many restaurant menu items that are vegetarian- or vegan-friendly. They also have a number of gluten free options, including for the crust of that amazing pizza.
As our first night was on a Friday, we could hear the strains of the live Jazz in the Fireplace Lounge starting up from our spot inside the adjacent TusCA. It was light enough to be entertaining, and not loud enough to be in any way distracting from conversation. In fact, I can see it being a nice, romantic addition to a date-night dinner here.
TusCA is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As you can imagine, breakfast and lunch are significantly more casual affairs (though dinner in the restaurant embraces the laid-back Monterey style, the nighttime atmosphere lends itself to a slightly dressier look). Breakfast can be from the substantial breakfast buffet, or off the menu. All the portions are large, and we found ourselves taking leftovers of decadent California cuisine back to our room on more than one occasion (thank goodness for room refrigerators!).
If you are in Monterey, and you are looking for an upscale date-night spot, TusCA should be on your radar (particularly on Friday or Saturday nights when Jazz also swinging). And if you are staying at the Hyatt Regency Monterey, you should try at least one meal in the restaurant during your stay – between the wine and the food, you are likely to rejoice in the choice.
[Dinner at TusCA Ristorante was part of sponsored trip for Hyatt Regency Monterey. All opinions are our own and that of the site.]