Dish

Attack of the filling tomatoes

Tasty Tomato’s catchy name turns out to be accurate and alliterative!

I drive past Tasty Tomato twice a day, and I’m always tempted to say
it out loud. “Tasty Tomato. Tasty Tomato!”—the alliteration
trips lightly off the tongue. But at the same time, the name always struck me
as a little pretentious—I mean, not so fast there, pal: I’ll be
the judge of what’s tasty. With this goal in mind, my wife and I took
the Tomato challenge early last Thursday evening. The tiny parking lot was
full (generally a good sign), which forced us to park on a side street. We
were seated at the last table by the bustling kitchen. So far, so good.

Our table was lit by a small oil lamp and the dim halogen above cast delicate
shadows across my bride’s features, her luminous eyes catching the
candle’s flame when she looked up from the menu with a smile. Covering
the basics with homemade pastas and sauces, the menu was appetizing but not
terribly adventurous. To drink, we decided on chinottos ($2.25), Italian
sodas our server described as “root beer-y.” My wife selected the
cannelloni ($11.95) and I the penne cirio ($11.95). I asked the server how to
pronounce my dish (“cheerio”? “seerio”?
“keerio”?), but she refused to answer: apparently, working for a
genuine Italian family discourages one from affecting the slightest authority
on pronunciation.

The atmosphere was exactly as I hoped: a crowded neighbourhood place full of
warm family charm. Decorative touches in cherrywood and earth tones kept the
place modern, but I half-expected to see the Tramp offering his Lady the last
meatball out back, serenaded by a pair of accordion-bearing Italian
stereotypes. Lost in my animated romantic reverie, our busy but attentive
waitress surprised me with her quick return, bearing our drinks and a plate
of oil and vinegar to accompany a basket of fresh, warm focaccia bread. We
made short work of one of our favourite appetizers, washing it down with the
fizzy, clove-tasting chinottos. A refreshing change from Coke, I nonetheless
found the “bitter orange” soda getting more caustic as I drank.
This must be an acquired taste. I had largely switched to water by the time
our entrées made their entrance.

Arriving in a cloud of distinctly tomato-y aroma, our entrées, both
swimming in spicy, zingy, reddish sauce, got a pair of “A”s for
presentation. My penne cirio turned out to be grown-up spaghetti and
meatballs: the homemade penne was thick and chewy while the lean meat pellets
scattered through the dish added to the flavour. I jumped at the chance to
sample the cannelloni when my wife offered me a bite. The tender veal was
wrapped in a thinner pasta and baked with mozzarella in Tasty’s
signature tomato sauce. Both were delicious, and I bemoaned only the lack of
fresh ground pepper or grated parmesan cheese; pasta dishes just don’t
seem complete to me without them.

We polished off our meals with pleasure. Our server had an easy time pressing
us to consider the dessert menu, but with only ice cream or gelato to offer,
we simply weren’t in the mood. With tax and a generous tip, we dined
well for under $40. And while warm, inexpensive and neighbourly, it
didn’t dazzle. To tell you the truth, I was relieved. Honest
self-promotion is something I value very highly. I would have had trouble if
they had chosen a name like “Pasta Perfection” or
“Incomparable Italian,” but the more modest and realistic
“Tasty Tomato” is both descriptive and accurate. Mind you, when
you’re satisfying the comfort-food needs of a full restaurant on a
regular basis, do you really have to worry about being dazzling?
V

Tasty Tomato
14233 Stony Plain Road • 452-3594

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