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The Toscana Italian Chophouse & Wine Bar opened their doors three years ago in in the former Bank of New Hampshire building that sits in the center of Market Square in downtown Portsmouth. Built in 1804 this historic landmark has won awards for its beautiful renovation to accommodate the restaurant.

Upon entering you gasp with amazement at the copper windowsills, exposed brick and hand-painted murals that instantly catch your attention. Toscana Italian Chophouse & Wine Bar transports you with a feel of a renowned New York City steak house yet you're still in New Hampshire. The bar area is big and inviting while the tables and leather booths offer a more intimate experience. There's an open-air kitchen that provides diners with a feeling of engagement watching the chef and cooks. The wine vault, which was once the bank vault, also acts as a private dining room. Outdoor seating is plentiful. This is certainly the best time of year to enjoy dining al fresco.

Toscana Italian Chophouse & Wine Bar offers a selection of fresh local seafood, house butchered meats that include premium cuts of sirloin, long-bone ribeye, pork loin and more. Their breads and pastas are all homemade. Every day they present evening specials from drinks to scratch made desserts. Everything is prepared with only the finest ingredients – many imported directly from Italy.

The wine list is diverse, featuring wines from various regions around the world - including their own production named Toscana. After careful research, Tuscan Brands owner Joe Faro and Wine Director Joe Comforti found the perfect location in "Greve in Chianti" - in the heart of Tuscany to create their wines. My favorite red wine Toscana is a Super Tuscan a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet, and 15% Syrah grapes made with organic estate grown fruit offering bold fruit flavors and a smooth mouthfeel, well balanced and delicious.

In addition to wine, there is beer and an impressive collection of bourbons and whiskeys. General Manager Chris LaBella who has been with the company at the beginning is climbing the ladder quickly while doing an excellent job of running the restaurant's wine, beer and craft cocktail program. There are regularly scheduled staff meetings with food and beverage tastings. He prides himself on producing the best team to ensure that all customers receive a warm welcome with great service and full knowledge of their menu.

Toscana Italian Chophouse & Wine Bar is under the umbrella of Tuscan Brands which owns seven restaurants and several markets. Close to the Chophouse on the corner of Market Square is the Tuscan Market, an Italian style Trattoria set in a casual atmosphere serving appetizers, pasta and pizza, and a full range of drinks.

Tuscan Brands opened their first restaurant, Tuscan Kitchen in Salem, New Hampshire, in 2010, and the first Tuscan Kitchen Market opened there two years later. Just recently the company completed a "Tuscan Village" located on 170 acres of land in Salem. The mixed-use development is the largest of its kind in New England featuring exciting dining, retail and entertainment, plus 700 luxury residential units and a hotel. The Artisan Hotel will be opening soon with a modern vintage design. The property features a full fitness facility, an upscale pool and lounge, as well as multiple dining concepts and a rooftop bar. Tuscan Village is a transformative new community that will serve as a gateway to New Hampshire.

There are certainly many things happening at Tuscan Brands. We are lucky to have two outstanding options in Portsmouth, so whether you feel like staying close to home or taking a drive, you have lots of choices. Salute!

Toscana Italian Chophouse & Wine Bar
3 Pleasant Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801

Tuscan Market Portsmouth
14 Market Square, Portsmouth, NH 03801

JoAnn Actis-Grande is wine editor for Taste of the Seacoast and writes wine and travel columns for other publications. She is a lover of wine and has traveled to wine regions from Napa Valley to Cyprus. JoAnn currently guides intimate groups to Tuscany and beyond. For more information: