It’s hard to know what to do with yourself when it’s 3 p.m. and you haven’t eaten since breakfast. Do you skip lunch entirely and eat a big dinner that’ll tide you over for the rest of the night, or do you grab a light lunch and then expect to eat a bigger dinner later? Do you aim for somewhere in between? And what do you even call this meal? Dinch? Lupper?
So there we were, my wife and daughter and I, overthinking all of this like crazy from hunger as we headed into Toti’s Grill and Pizzeria on Route 44 in Seekonk at 3 p.m. The three of us had Toti’s to ourselves, as will happen when you hit a suburban restaurant at 3 in the afternoon. Our kind and attentive server gave us a table by the window, offering a view of the road. The interior of the place is spacious, with a bar along a far wall and private booths, the decor spare and low-key.
Besides whatever the bartender will whip up for you, there’s a more limited menu of wines and beers than I’ve seen lately, with just a few choices but all reasonably priced. There’s nothing too extravagant here. Don’t expect them to have your microbrewed limited-batch dry-hopped bergamot and pine resin triple-IPA — in here, it’s Miller Time. We’re not drinkers anyway, so my wife and I sipped some iced tea while the server brought my daughter a lemonade colored pink with a splash of grenadine.
The menu features a lot of options for whatever you’re going to call your meal, mainly hearty Italian and Greek dishes — with a few a choices that seem out of place given the restaurant’s overall theme (club sandwiches? Fish and chips? Quesadillas?). Toti’s seems to stick to the basics you’ve probably seen on a million menus before, so don’t go thinking you’ll be bowled over by their creativity. It doesn’t seem to be a place that’s aiming for originality, but rather is geared toward serving up the old standbys. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you’re after.
Starters mainly stick to the same old stuff you’ll find anywhere — nachos, wings, mozzarella sticks from $8 to $11, with a few other options like the Greek spinach pie ($4) or the shrimp saganaki with feta, tomatoes and garlic in a red sauce with crostini ($10). We chose the latter.
A short while later the shrimp saganaki arrived, nicely plated, with a couple of jagged pieces of bread on the side — which isn’t technically crostini since they weren’t served topped with anything, and so should have been more accurately just called “toast.” My daughter didn’t want any, so my wife and I had it to ourselves. I found the tomato sauce very sweet and flavorful, and the shrimp were quite nicely cooked — although served with the tails still on, which is a major pet peeve of mine. General announcement: For cocktail shrimp or anything similar where you take shrimp off a plate with your fingers, leave the tails on so people have a handle to grab. For shrimp that gets mixed into a dish and covered with sauce and you eat it with a fork, take the damn tails off. I don’t want to go rooting around in my food to peel off shrimp tails getting sauce everywhere, and I don’t want to forgo all the shrimp meat left inside. It’s maddening. Don’t write me emails about this, because I don’t want to hear it. Just everybody do it my way from now on.
Anyway, entrees range from more casual dining fare like sandwiches, grinders and burgers from $7 to $11, calzones with various fillings like pepperoni, sausage, vegetables or pulled pork for about $10, and pizzas with a variety of toppings or house specialties, these starting at $11 for a small up to $18 for a large. My daughter wanted a small cheese pizza all to herself ($7).
Other entrees include some Greek delights like chicken kabobs ($17), souvlaki, or pork loin skewers ($14) and a gyro platter with grilled pita, tzatziki sauce and rice ($14). My wife picked the latter. I eyed the pasta dishes, which included veal Marsala or Parmesan ($20 each), blackened chicken with penne in pink vodka sauce ($18), and lobster ravioli ($20, and remind me someday to share my rant with you about why people take one of the most expensive seafood proteins available, mince it and combine it with cheap filler, then stuff tiny amounts of it inside pasta and slather it in sauce). I settled on baked penne with linguiça, peppers and onions in marinara ($15).
After consulting with the chefs about my wife’s nut allergy, our server told us they use sunflower oil in their kitchen. It’s unclear whether she might be allergic to it — and not willing to take chances and risk a reaction, they went back and forth a few times with different entree options, and eventually my wife took the server’s suggestion of the blackened chicken with vodka sauce, prepared with butter instead. I always appreciate places that take my wife’s allergy seriously.
The entrees arrived after a bit of a wait — it’s to be expected with special orders, take your time — and we had at it. The portions were more than generous, and even the small pizza was sized more like a medium. My wife’s blackened chicken dish was loaded with the stuff, smothered in creamy vodka sauce, topped with chunks of pungent cheese and served over well-cooked pasta. It was a great suggestion.
My baked penne dish skimped a bit on the protein, with slivers of sausage hiding among the tomatoes and onion — but it was hearty and filling, with a rich and tangy sauce. My daughter, growing like a weed, scarfed down most of her pizza in minutes, so I snagged a piece before it was all gone and discovered it was delightful, with a light Greek-style crust that was crunchy on the outside and fluffy inside. My dish was fine, but I started to wonder if I shouldn’t have gotten a pizza myself.
We capped our lupper, or whatever it’s called, with a couple of desserts: a dish of chocolate ice cream for my daughter ($2.75) and a slab of decadently moist, rich, triple chocolate layer cake for me ($4) — although my kid stole much of it, the dirty thief. It brought the total to $64 before tax and tip, a very reasonable tab considering we ended up with leftovers, which I ate for lunckfast the next afternoon.
Toti’s Grill and Pizzeria
Address: 373 Taunton Ave., Seekonk
Hours: Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m..
Handicapped access: yes
Credit cards: yes
food: 3.5 stars
Service: 4.5 stars
Atmosphere: 3 stars
Cleanliness: 3.5 stars
Price/Value: 4 stars
Dine Out's reviewer visits restaurants unannounced and at his or her discretion. The newspaper pays for the meals reviewed. The reviews merely reflect one diner's experience. Ratings range from 1 to 5 stars.