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Toscanini’s Brunch at the Big Table

899 Main Street

Cambridge, Mass.

Weekends, 10 a.m.– 2 p.m.

Toscanini’s may be known for its ice cream, but the Main Street location in Cambridge also offers brunch on Saturdays and Sundays until 2 p.m.. Brunch at the Big Table, as this weekly event is known, consists of freshly prepared main dishes as well as traditional breakfast pastries and accompaniments. These pastries and sides include scones, muffins, sticky buns, yogurt, fruit, granola, and an assortment of jams.

While waiting for our meal to arrive, we decided to try a lemon scone ($2.75), which was laid out on a side table with the other pastries for easy access. The scone was topped with a creamy icing that moistened and sweetened the tangy treat. Although the scone was delicious with just the right amount of lemon flavor, it was rather unscone-like. More like a combination of a scone and a muffin, this pastry was less dense and buttery compared to a more traditional scone. However, with thick blueberry jam, whether this scone was in fact a scone did not matter, since it tasted so good.

The main dishes at Toscanini’s brunch include about a dozen typical breakfast dishes minus the normally abundant meat. Not to say that the menu is completely vegetarian — they do offer a side of bacon and a sandwich with ham — but there is certainly an emphasis on natural and wholesome dishes that offer new twists on classic fare.

The cornmeal pancakes with strawberries and rhubarb (which I got without the rhubarb) ($7.95) have a grainy texture. However, the less sweet but still fluffy cornmeal discs complemented the fresh strawberries very well in both texture and sweetness. Plus, the cornmeal added a heartiness to the three small pancakes so that I actually felt full after having them. The brioche French toast ($4.95) is a prime example of great French toast. The thick slice of golden bread was moist and fluffy all the way through without being soggy or tough. Finally, the fried egg sandwich ($5.25) featured a spicy mayonnaise and tangy cheese that provided the right amount of flavor without overpowering the sandwich. We enjoyed all of these dishes with a nice pot of English breakfast tea ($2.75 for a large pot) made with fresh, loose tea leaves.

All of the portions were large enough to be filling, but small enough to allow for an ice cream dessert (I mean, can you really go to Toscanini’s and not get ice cream?). Contrary to most brunch dishes, where quantity seems to be the priority, Toscanini’s seems to believe that quality is far more important, with every bite as good as the last.

As for service, the staff was very accommodating — volunteering to see if I could in fact get the pancakes without rhubarb, and adding more hot water to our tea pot. However, I was puzzled about where I should order, since there is a side table with pastries (and the one large menu in the eatery), tables to eat at, and of course the register. I thought that I was the only one having this trouble, but while I was there, I was asked by another customer how the ordering system worked. It turns out that orders are placed at the register. Overall, however, this brunch shows that Toscanini’s is good at more than just delicious ice cream, so check it out some weekend when you’re looking for something special.