Taking ‘local’ to an Italian setting
In today’s fine dining environment, “local” is more than just a buzzword – it’s a necessity to stay ahead of the competition. But a true dedication to “local” requires a management team obsessed with where the food is bought, what’s coming in to the marketplace and what happens to be the freshest ingredient available. Then they need to build a cohesive menu out of all the pieces.
With that kind of recipe in mind, Tony and Toni Calderone have turned their newly opened Italian- and Mediterranean-inspired spot – Tutoni’s Restaurant – into a dining institution that celebrates an ever-changing menu catering to seasonally available ingredients from the bounty of Central PA.
Owned by the third-generation restaurateurs, Tutoni’s is Tony and Toni’s (hence its name, pronounced “Two Tonis”) culmination of years of planning and waiting for the perfect opportunity to bring fine Italian dining to downtown York.
“When [food’s] in your blood, it’s in your blood,” says Toni, who gained experience in seasonality and food pairings while working at the nationally known Seasons 52 chain of restaurants. “Our families have owned restaurants, and it’s just what we do.”
Tutoni’s is a restaurant so incredibly committed to buying local and supporting local business that it affects every aspect of the establishment – even extending all the way out the front door. More than a dozen neatly organized potted plants and flowers line the sidewalk and entrance, all bought at a local greenhouse and arranged by a local landscaper.
Before opening Tutoni’s, the Calderones sought to create a high-end dining experience with a big-city atmosphere. It begins with the décor and the mood, with string instruments playing over speakers for background music. Pictures and artwork created by local artists and photographers hang on the walls of the three-story building. Chalkboards display the day’s charcuterie and cheese boards (which change frequently), and also feature artwork and letter design done by a local artist.
On a Thursday night in mid-August, I’ve beaten the rush of the dinner crowd and I’m seated promptly at a space along the exposed brick walls. The rustic Italian décor creates a rich atmosphere, with dark wood paneling, customized wrought-iron lighting and handcrafted columns and ceiling panels. The lighting is very intimate, with each table illuminated by flickering candlelight.
But what brings the experience together (and why I’m here) is the freshly prepared food. Choosing the freshest ingredients becomes a seasonal requirement. Even then, Toni says, the menu changes twice per season to ensure the best available ingredients are being utilized. One glance at the menu, and you can see what the Calderones mean when they talk local.
All the ingredients come from within a short driving distance of York. Meat selections come from Rettland Farm in Gettysburg and Wayne Nell & Sons of East Berlin. Brogue Hydroponics of York County provide micro greens. Fresh mozzarella and ricotta cheeses are made by Caputo Brothers Creamery of Spring Grove, while Farm Fromage of Lancaster provides its Tomme cheese washed in Lancaster Brewing Company’s Milk Stout.
Tonight – luckily for me – is the opening night of a new seasonal menu. There are items like bucatini meatballs, manicotti and rigatoni Bolognese. The Atlantic cod comes with squash, zucchini, orzo, capers, lemon segments and fresh herbs. Duck breast and lamb, with seasoned rice, tzatziki sauce, red onion and cucumber salad is also available.
All of the pasta is made in-house, and it has its own section on the menu. Lobster ravioli with fresh herbs and tomato fennel broth is featured, while chicken gemelli made with pulled chicken, lamb sausage, garlic, tomato and scallions in a white wine sauce also stands out.
Freshly baked bread is the first item to come out to my table, served with a dipping dish of rosemary olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, cracked pepper and Parmesan cheese.
For my appetizer, I decide to start with gazpacho. The ingredients in the gazpacho change so much that its menu description is listed as a “daily selection.”
After talking with executive chef Scott Robinson (who most recently served as sous chef at the internationally renowned Woodbury Kitchen in Baltimore), I found out tonight’s gazpacho was a simple tomato-based dish, featuring both fresh and canned tomatoes and included cucumber and red onion, as well as swirled balsamic vinaigrette and some micro greens on top. From its flavor, I knew there was more to it than the chef revealed.
My entrée selection wasn’t an easy decision. Toni pointed to some of her favorites on the current menu, including the vegetable lasagna (which uses a multitude of layered veggies) and the goat cheese manicotti (made with preserved lemons, herbs, smoked tomato jam and Parmesan cheese).
I settled on the truffle pasta. The dish uses a fatter linguini noodle and has diced asparagus, sliced shiitake mushrooms and a cured egg yolk in a cream sauce. The surprise for me was that when served, the entrée includes an over-easy egg nestled in the middle of the dish. Cooked sous-vide (in an airtight plastic bag), once you break the egg, the yolk thickens the rest of the sauce. It’s a hearty meal and has a terrific balance of flavor between the egg, sauce and herbs and textures with the diced asparagus and mushrooms.
For dessert, a paddle of five 2.5-ounce shot glasses holds various sweet treats prepared that day. I opted for the deconstructed cannoli, which features crumbled cannoli shell on the bottom and homemade cannoli cream up to the rim, before being topped off with mini chocolate chips. The dessert is prepared with Tony’s family recipe for the cream.
The menu allows for specific requests for people with food allergies. Since everything is made fresh daily for each dish, people working in the kitchen can adjust on the fly with no need to call ahead with special requests.
Having only been open for a few short months, the Calderones are still in the process of acquiring a liquor license for Tutoni’s. Toni’s the wine aficionado, and it’s obvious from our conversation that she can’t wait to get that license.
“We’ll have an exquisite wine list,” Toni says. “A wine bar downstairs, where we can have 16 wines on tap, wine events and listing wine pairings with the food. The options are endless once we get the license.”
When all is said and done and the bill’s been paid, I don’t forget to take with me the postcard that’s left with every check at Tutoni’s. The picture? A local photographer has taken it locally – of course.
• 108 North George Street, York, 885-5169
• Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Monday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m.