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Posted May 30, 2005

A Visit to Tuscany Touch
And a Taste of Italy

Story by Justin Watrel

When Italian immigrants came to this country, they not only brought their hopes and dreams, but their cuisine as well. Many ingredients from the ‘old country’ were simply not available at the time, so they made do with products they found here.

With a large immigration from the Southern part of Italy, people brought the foods they knew and adapted them to their new surroundings. Over time, this became the basis for what we know as "Italian-American" cuisine.

A little piece of Italy arrived in Hasbrouck Heights when the Tuscany Touch opened on the Boulevard. The location has had many incarnations before known as Dolly’s, Gramps, Kristine’s Corner and most recently, Terra Nostra.

New owners, Michael and Regina D’Angelo opened the restaurant, celebrating its one year anniversary, on March 10, 2005. The D’Angelo’s were living in Wood-Ridge at the time when they discovered the business for sale.

With the opening of their new restaurant, the D’Angelo’s also became our neighbors, moving to Hasbrouck Heights to be closer to the business. "We wanted to make a real investment in the town," Michael said.

The D’Angelo’s have a colorful story in their start in the United States. Michael had immigrated to this country from Palermo, Sicily in 1982. He left in 1995 to go back to Italy to spend time with his family there.

While working as a chef at the, a 700 year villa in Florence, he met his wife, Regina Branchetti, a college student studying physiology. After they were married, Michael went to work at the house of the noble family, the Antinori’s, who are famous all over the world for their wines.

He was introduced to them by his mother-in-law, who at the time was a chef for the family. As a private chef, he cooked special dishes for the guests of the Antinori’s, who were there for wine tasting. It was a menu of dishes to pair with the wines they were producing in the family vineyards.

Michael came back to this country in 2000 with his wife and their daughter.

Regina added, "We wanted more opportunities also for our daughter. In this country, there is more room for advancement and higher education." Their daughter, Valentina, now attends Hasbrouck Heights High School.

Michael said he wanted to develop a menu that would please customers. His traditional Italian menu contains such items as stuffed shells, eggplant and chicken parmigiana, spaghetti and meatballs and baked penne. His regular menu includes traditional items -- hamburgers, chicken wings, hot and cold sandwiches and salad platters.

His pizza menu is by the slice as well as personal, Sicilian and stuffed pizza. There are all sorts of calzones and bread rolls.

The chalkboard specials make Tuscany Touch unique. "We change our chalkboard specials everyday. We make all our own sauce and pastas from scratch and all of our specials are based on dishes I used to cook in Italy," Michael said. "True Italian food is very creative."

In Italy, a person knows all the detailed ingredients behind the dish. All dishes are a product of their region based on the fresh ingredients available." Michael finds that the customers can taste the difference. "If you let them taste authentic food, they will know how it differs from restaurants here.

At our restaurant, we use fresh rosemary and sage as well as homemade pasta and fresh vegetables. We want our customers to taste the quality difference in our food. We try to be innovative with our cooking."

Some of the daily specials on the chalkboard are for appetizers, Fresh Tomato & Mozzarella and Breaded Mushrooms. For entrees, the restaurant features Chicken Sorrentino, Chicken Calabrese and Gnocchi Caprese.

Pasta dishes, Tortellini Bolognese, Paglia e Tiera Pomadora and Lasagna Toscano.

For dessert, Regina makes homemade Tiramisu and Almond Cake as well as Cannolli with fresh cream. "The difference in the way we prepare our meals and the way others cook is that we follow the traditional recipes of Italy.

When we make Penne a la Vodka, we use real vodka and bacon instead of a tomato cream sauce that others might use."

The restaurant is strictly BYOB but they do carry an array of sodas and teas. They will also do catering for large parties.

In the summer, Michael grows his own basil, oregano, parsley, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes to use in the restaurant. "The fresh ingredients really make a difference in the flavor of the food. Even when I use garlic, I use it from the bulb and cut it to order. I don’t like the peeled garlic in the plastic containers."

Since they moved to Hasbrouck Heights, the D’Angelo family has established a warm, friendly atmosphere. "Customers like a family restaurant where the husband and wife cook side by side. We think of our food as inventive and creative," Michael says. Regina included, "We have a lot of trust from our customers."

Mike and Regina thank all their loyal customers from Hasbrouck Heights and Wood -Ridge who continue to eat here and would like to extend a welcome to new patrons to come in and try their restaurant. ###


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