Where can you find the perfect lunch in the Triangle?
There are a number of good answers to that question, in my opinion, and one of them is definitely Durham’s Toast.
I’ve yet to have a panini at this awesome paninoteca because I can’t seem to pass up the crostini-and-soup-or-salad combo. You get two each of three sorts of crostini, and how can anybody not want to taste several things instead of just one?
On my most recent visit, I had soup with my crostini — arborio rice, turnips and grana padano cheese. Sounds weird, I know. But it was actually creamy and rib-sticking and delicious.
As for the crostini — oh! It’s always difficult to narrow it down to just three. But I did, and they were:
- Herb pesto, mozzarella, roasted tomato (on the regular menu)
- Sicilian caponata, goat cheese, pine nuts (ditto)
- Avocado, lemon, grana padano (from that day’s specials board)
The best by far, though — my friend Mary Frances and I both agreed — was the avocado, lemon and grana padano crostini. Three wonderfully bright, complementary flavors. So very lemony that I suspected they used preserved lemon or lemon oil or some such, but a staff member said it was just lemon juice.
Toast serves up all that I admire and love about authentic Italian food. Everything is simple yet full-flavored, and many ingredients are seasonal and local. (Believe me, Italy’s been operating on those principles long before they became trendy relatively recently here in the States.)
The ambience is bright and simple, too. Counter service, a few tables outside in nice weather, and not-too-many inside tables. (Despite its simplicity, Toast has even been featured in the New York Times.)
The only other meals I’ve enjoyed at the restaurant were during warm-weather months. I sat outside each time, and enjoyed cool white wine and a nice fresh salad with my crostini. I thought it felt like such a summertime place. But with homemade soups and turquoise interior walls to brighten gray days, it’s awfully nice in the winter, too.