Pomodoro attracts happy diners of all ages.
Photos by Susan Safford

Hearty dining, happy meals

By Pat Waring - September 6, 2007

The bustling atmosphere and cheerful din as we strolled off Circuit Avenue and into Pomodoro one recent Thursday evening had us worried. On such a busy night would the service be slow? Would the food be good? But despite packed tables it turned out we had nothing to fear. Our party of five enjoyed delicious, hearty Italian food served by a professional and attentive staff and we left with fat doggie bags packed with leftovers much too delectable to end up in Fido's bowl.

We were lucky enough to grab one of the spacious booths that line two walls of the old tin-ceilinged establishment that many remember as Papa John's, and even longer ago as an A & P market. Families and groups of adults filled other booths and larger tables while a few couples enjoyed a bit of privacy at smaller tables tucked away near the big front windows.

We'd had barely a moment to settle in and look around before our enthusiastic waiter, Marco, appeared, greeting and listing to us the evening's specials before leaving with drink orders. Still expecting the large number of diners to slow the service, we were delighted when our glasses of cold white wine were served only minutes later along with sliced Italian bread and oil.

Eileen Mello
Eileen Mello, visiting with her family from Tiverton, R.I., needed two hands for the generous pizza slice.

Making our way through the hefty menu, we were grateful for Marco's friendly patience in explaining the dishes and making recommendations. Although everything sounded good as we got hungrier, we finally placed our orders and settled in to chat and people watch.

Across the room one booth overflowed with a jovial group of fishermen. At a table near us, six adults and four children dined in cheerful harmony. In fact, Pomodoro is that unusual restaurant where families are made to feel at home and parents can relax with a glass of wine and a sophisticated entrée while the kids giggle over their pizzas, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, and Cokes.

Again we had little time to fill before our food began arriving. Aside from delicious, the word that occurred to us again and again as we tasted and savored was "fresh."

The Bruschetta Pomodoro surprised us by being, rather than a delicate hors d'oeuvre, big enough for one, a good-sized plate with tastily grilled crostini not just topped but fairly buried beneath a mountain of chopped tomato tossed with garlic and oil, sparked with a hint of lemon, and adorned with paper-thin shavings of Parmesan reggiano. There was plenty for all five of us to share and then some.

Modern art? No, it's a colorful pizza rustica.

"It's very refreshing, straight out of the garden," declared Sarah.

The restaurant's signature Zuppa Pomodoro was thick, rich, and heavy, the rich essence of tomato, a simple rustic bowl. Tasty as it was in summer, it would be heavenly as a bracing supper on a chilly fall day. The soup was one of many dishes capitalizing on the deliciousness of the fresh tomato, after which the restaurant is named. Pomodoro means tomato in Italian.

Thankfully, we had not let our hungry eyes get the better of our stomachs. We'd ordered judiciously, we thought - only two salads, two entrees, and a pizza to share among the table. But the dishes were so generous we could have easily served another few guests and no one would have left hungry.

The delectable Insalata Pera (Pear Salad), a Pomodoro favorite, combined the delicate sweetness of fruit with salty robustness of Gorgonzola, and the rich balsamic dressing which coated the fresh greens and a sprinkle of pecans. A traditional Caesar Salad featured ultra-crisp romaine with a mild and creamy dressing, decorated with sturdy shreds of fresh Parmesan.

Served on a bed of linguini, which was cooked just right, the Eggplant Parmigiana was all we could have wished. The hearty dish featured several layers of eggplant, lightly cooked and neither dry nor oily as is often the case, atop a nest of linguini and blanketed with spicy tomato sauce and plenty of melted mozzarella.

bruschetta and robust Zuppa Pomodoro
A refreshing bruschetta and robust Zuppa Pomodoro with a glass of chilled wine start the meal off right.

We wisely chose a lighter offering for our second entrée, the Pasta Pomodoro. A showcase for the sweet succulence of fresh tomatoes, the dish featured them both in the sauce and in the topping of tiny, toothsome "toy box" tomatoes. The dish was at once delicate and hearty, braced with garlic and red wine, accented with a sprinkling of pine nuts and lemon zest.

The Pizza Rustica was the piece de la resistance, a huge pie and colorful as a work of modern art with its morsels of sausage, roasted red pepper, spinach, shredded mozzarella and the snowy white dabs of goat cheese that we chose to add. The flavors were as intriguing and pleasing together as the colors were.

Despite our protestations, the waiter convinced us sweets were in order and came back with two cannelloni. Although the filling was sweeter, creamier, and more vanilla-flavored than in usual Italian cannelloni, they were delicious, with crisp crust and dusted with confectioner's sugar, and we devoured them at once. We learned that the other dessert choice, chocolate chip brownies, were long gone, dispatched by the many young patrons.

As we enjoyed (wolfed down, actually) our dessert, co-owner Bill Davies dropped by to greet us, and then continued through the dining room, greeting friends old and new.

Disappointments were negligible. The bread and oil could have had more character, and we missed seeing the restaurant's former intense and fluffy chocolate mousse on the menu. But overall, our evening was perfect.

The dinner was as memorable for what we ate as what we did not order but promised ourselves "for next time." The dinner specials list includes two entrees daily, each a little more elaborate than the regular menu selections. Among the most imaginative were the Chicken Gorg bowl (chicken with roasted red peppers and spinach in creamy gorgonzola sauce), Grilled Swordfish with Pineapple Mango Salsa, Shrimp Scampi Aglio e Olio (sautéed shrimp with fresh tomatoes, spinach, onions, lemon zest in a garlic olive oil wine sauce), and Mardi Gras (chicken and shrimp sautéed with onions, green peppers, roasted red peppers, and jalapenos, in spicy white wine and pesto sauce). Pizza may be ordered from a list of conventional choices or creative specialties, and customers may "build their own" from a variety of toppings. Robust panini and submarines are offered too. We still wanted to try the antipasto, and standard specialties like stuffed shells; marinara sauce with clams, mussels, and shrimp over pasta; and good old rigatoni and meatballs. Our experience on this night assured us all of them would be delicious.

(And if we can get some of those brownies before the kids devour them, we'll be ecstatic.)

Pomodoro, 53 Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs, 508-696-3002. Lunch and dinner daily, 11 am to 10 pm. Soups, 5.95; Salads and antipasti, 7.95 to 13.95; dinner entrees and specials, 15.95 to 22.95; panini, sandwiches, subs 8.95 to 10.50. Children's menu. Beer and wine. Take out available.