Today’s post is written by our editor, Amy Norton:
You say tomato. I say pomodoro. Pomodoro East, that is. And that’s Italian for tomato, by the way…
Pomodoro East is the most recent brainchild of chef/owner Willy Thomas (of Park Cafe and Eastland Cafe fame) and executive chef Joe Shaw (well-known from Watermark and The Standard at the Smith House) and is situated where Porter Road and Eastland Avenue converge. As is often the case with new restaurants, Pomodoro East – open since spring – has received a mix of reviews. Some glowing, others not so much. But given my affinity for Italian food and curiosity about the farm-to-table concept this bistro is based on, I wanted to discover for myself if I liked this new place or not. Note: For those of you who read the last page of a novel first, the answer is yes, I liked it very much.
When some favorite friends invited us to meet them for dinner at Pomodoro a few weeks ago, my better half and I were happy to oblige. After managing to get unbelievably lost on the interstate (and resolving to learn a better route so as not to need a GPS map to find our way ever again) we arrived more than ready for a cocktail.
I don’t recall the name of the white that was uncorked, but our friends arrived first and had a chilled bottle of something fabulous and Italian waiting and ready. Or was that the second bottle? We were really late, and they were really happy to see us! As we enjoyed our vino, we dug into some yummy appetizers – or antipasti, if I’m going to be accurate. (Giada, hold your tooth whitener. I might switch gears and host my own cooking show as soon as I’m fluent in menu Italian.) Our favorites were the baked Gnocchi alla Romana - little dumplings baked with just the right amount of butter and Parmesan – and the chicken meatballs. Not as exotic-sounding a name, but equally delicious, full of spinach and mushrooms and swimming in a sauce called Romesco. (Which incidentally is Spanish, but who’s counting. Pomodoro’s signature tomato was well represented in the savory tomato-based sauce.) We also enjoyed some fancy fried cheese called Spiedini, which were light, crispy crunchy bites of mozzarella served with a lemon-butter tapenade. Mmmm.
Several of us ordered salads. I’m still waxing poetic about the Pickled Georgia Peach salad I enjoyed. I saw the name on the menu and was immediately transported back in time to my great-grandmother’s Sunday lunch table, where there was always a cut glass dish of mysterious looking, ugly brownish lumps waiting for someone to partake. (Loved my Granny, but blech. Did anyone really ever eat those things anyway?) When I asked our server with a raised eyebrow about said pickled peaches, he assured me this was not my grandmother’s version. Too curious not to try it, I ordered it up. It was wonderful, and beautiful to boot. I tried to make each forkful the right balance of arugula, homemade ricotta and peach. With a drizzle of local honey on top, it was nirvana. The meal could have ended here.
My primi piatti was the chef’s house made Pappardelle Pasta with Marsala-braised Rabbit and Mushrooms. Pasta is the acid test for an Italian restaurant for me and Pomodoro’s was delicious. I’m not always a huge Marsala fan, but the flavor of the fortified wine was just right balanced with the rabbit. Reminded me of a pot au feu, or a special version of the weeknight pot roast. Tender. Flavorful. And the wide ribbons of pasta were divinely al dente. The Sea Bass with Capers, Tomatoes and Polenta across the table was a thumbs up, too.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to say not everyone at my table was as smitten with their main course. One friend ordered the Gallina Paillard, which was chicken scallopini over an arugula salad. It looked great, but a few bites in proved lackluster. Not bad, just boring.
Of course dessert and coffee (French pressed – love our multi-cultural experience!) were the finale. A fruit tart, a panna cotta and six spoons was great.
As a big proponent of buying seasonal, locally sourced food, I asked about the farm-to-table concept. I’m intrigued with restaurants in other parts of the country who base their menus off of what’s available locally and have wondered why more Nashville places don’t follow suit. The answer, I believe, explained why I enjoyed my peach salad so much. Pomodoro focuses on simple dishes prepared with a few ingredients – very typical in rustic, peasant cooking, which is a large part of Pomodoro’s menu. Naturally, those key ingredients must be at peak flavor and of the highest quality to make an impact. Chef Shaw and his culinary team take great pride in sourcing as much local produce, dairy and meat as they can find. Shopping with the old man who stops by with a basket of peaches is their way of supporting the community. The end result is a lovingly prepared, fresh product that keeps guests coming back for more.
They got me, for sure. And I’ll be back soon to try the wood-oven fired pizzas I spied being delivered to a nearby table during my visit.
And speaking of pizzas, be sure to sure to check out our pizza posts featured today in Atlanta, Louisville and Memphis. (Just click on the link beside the photo to see the post.):