If you only had the name to go on, you would never come here. Few of us would willingly consume a meal where the name suggests either high-fructose corn syrup wrapped in wax paper or Dustin Hoffman in drag. Mmmm… appetizing.
On top of that, virtually no one seems able to spell its name correctly: calling it Tootsie’s, with the possessive apostrophe. Of course, there are people who insist on using the imaginary possessive-form names of “Lucky’s” [sic] and “Nordstrom’s” [sic]. But the name of this place — as etched on its Web site and on its metal signage in front — is Tootsies (no apostrophe).
We might cut the owners a break, as their rather authentic Italian approach to food and drink — they even call themselves “autentica cafeteria italiana” — suggests something may have been lost in translation. This is a pretty serious café that highlights the food of Emila-Romagna and Puglia regions of Italy. But to add to the confusion, Emila-Romagna and Puglia are two regions nowhere near each other. Hence we suspect the influence of more than one owner. (We even tried to connect Tootsies to the English colloquialism for toes or feet, but Puglia is actually at the heel of Italy’s boot.)
It’s a courtyard café in the Stanford Barn, technically located in what’s called the Barn’s “Powerhouse”. There is outdoor patio seating among café tables and parasols that surround the brick building. Inside there are a few small café tables packed together in a tight space. They live up to their “autentica cafeteria italiana” aspirations through an Italian staff making salads, panini, and espresso.
For espresso, they use a two-group Elektra machine at the service window. With it and their Roman Danesi beans, they produce a shot with a deep, rich-looking, darker brown crema with some texture. It’s a modest-sized shot that’s potent, but not necessarily prominent. It has a well-blended and satisfying flavor of pepper, some tobacco, spices, herbs, and some sweetness — with nothing much more prominent than the other flavors. Served in Danesi logo cups — after your meal as they might (and should) suggest.
At Tootsies the name may be nonsensical, but the espresso — despite their dependence on imported coffee roasts — is pretty serious.
Read the review of Tootsies in Palo Alto.
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