Step into Tuscany and you get a sense of space. Open and airy, this eatery on the periphery of Jayanagar’s 9th Block welcomes you with its bright colours and sweeping flow. But more than the physical area, this is a space for the individual. You could just sit quietly by yourself and read a book, or have a leisurely chat with friends, or immerse yourself in the gentle house music, or pick up the microphone and test your singing ability at the karaoke space. If you are there at the right time, you could even participate in a workshop or talk. All this while savouring excellent ice creams and thick shakes.
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Tuscany defies definition. You cannot call it an ice cream parlour. It also has sandwiches and pizzas. But it is not a fast food joint. It has colourful, funky interiors but it’s not a modern lounge. And while the karaoke system draws amateur crooners, it is not Tuscany’s defining attraction.
Tuscany, simply put, is a space meant for the community. It is a place where tradition and modernity merge. Where people can get together, partake of freshly-made treats, and soak in the conviviality that such spaces engender.
The brainchild of M K Mohan, an automobile engineer who entered the software industry by default, Tuscany is the result of a yearning to do "something different".
After 26 years in the industry, working for others as well as a short period with a company he himself started, Mohan had enough of the competitiveness and lack of creativity that he perceived in the corporate world. So he sold his business and took a sabbatical for four months wherein he travelled and pondered over what do with his life. "I thought of a restaurant but I also did not want anything that had too much of a kitchen orientation," he reminisces. "I had a friend who sold ice cream machines and my mind veered towards ice cream. Not the industrial kind but the freshly made variety."
From there, it was only a short journey to envisaging the kind of space he wanted to house these ice creams. Perceiving the lack of places for people who are vegetarian, teetotallers and family-oriented, he conceptualised Tuscany. When the enclosed space within (which doubles up as a party space and karaoke area) was created, he was also clear that it should not be purely a commercially-driven proposition. Mohan was keen that the area be utilised for activities that would benefit the community. "If somebody wants to give a talk on social or civic issues, I am willing to provide this space without any charges. Or if somebody wants to give classes, like say guitar lessons, the person can avail of it free of cost, provided he teaches at least one economically disadvantaged student for free."
The idea of a community space also inspired Mohan’s choice for the lounge’s name – Tuscany. He was struck by the lead character’s personality in the film Under the Tuscan Sun. "The way the lady handles her life after her painful divorce impressed me. The kind of grace she displayed when she moves to this house in Tuscany. Since I felt that my place too should be such where people could be at peace, whatever their worries, I decided on the name Tuscany."
Mohan’s sense of community is also evident in the way he runs Tuscany on a day-to-day basis. Hands on, he is there to greet each customer and hand over the menu. Which has some unusual natural ice creams like Jackfruit, Coconut Crunch, and Rose and Cashew, as also better known concoctions like Cheeku, Alphonso (mango) and Custard Apple. There are scrumptious shakes too. Apart from the usual strawberry, blueberry, and rose there are some interesting creations like Irish Coffee, Butter Scotch and Banana Caramel.
And there is Shahi Tuscany – a refreshing drink made of milk, dry fruits, herbs and seeds, prepared by a homemaker who casually told Mohan that she could supply a drink that she often prepared at home. Not only did he take her up on the offer, he also asked her if there was anything else she could make. And thus came about the Tuscany Special Sweet, made in Muslim households and known as Ande ka Meetha.
Mohan is now in talks with another woman, a customer who has expressed a desire to supply the popular Italian dessert Tiramisu. "I am open to ideas from my clientèle and to adding new items to the menu," says Mohan. "But I am particular that it should have been made in a home kitchen, not a commercial one."
1036, 26th Main, 4th T Block, Jayanagar
From August 15 to September 11, Tuscany is having a lucky dip. Prizes include air tickets, resort stay, book vouchers and coupons for Tuscany.
It is this willingness to experiment and think outside the box that bodes a long innings for Tuscany. Just over a month old and with no formal advertising so far, the place is attracting curious first timers as well as a trickle of repeat clientèle. Mohan admits that the slickly designed interiors, which can be seen from the road through the glass-fronted entrance, could be rather intimidating for first-timers. "They think it must be expensive. But when they come in and see the menu card, they realise it is not so." Given the costs in other such places, Tuscany seems extremely reasonable. Ice creams are priced at Rs 40 to 50 while the thick shakes cost Rs 70. There are also combinations such as an ice cream with pizza or a shake with sandwich, at Rs 100. A Sunday menu, with a variety of sundaes, has just been launched.