Thursday, April 16, 2009

Don't Overlook This Gem: Tomasso Trattoria, Southborough

You would have thought we had brought the little boys, but instead it was us dueling with forks over the last precious bites of our hazelnut crusted, goat cheese and lime zest filled crostada. This dessert was just one part of a meal that really went far beyond our expectations when we ate recently at Tomasso Trattoria in Southborough. Wait-KEEP READING! To be honest, even for us the address made us hesitant to head out West. But, not only was it less than 20 minutes from Natick Center (and right of the Mass. Pike), but Tomasso is worth a much longer drive as the restaurant offers exceptional ingredients executed beautifully.  In addition, to our pleasure, Tomasso's offered to treat us to this meal. 

In terms of atmosphere, this would be a great place to go for a date or a celebration. It is definitely not stuffy or pretentious, but it is also worth noting that is energetic and tables are close enough to see what everyone else is eating.  In other words, it may not be the best place for an intimate meal for two. However, it is fun for a night out and many tables consisted of large groups sharing plates of appetizers. The servers were warm, friendly and knowledgeable about the food. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of our waitress was how she steered us, without trying to romanticize every dish on the menu.

Somehow I had missed that Tomasso is one of those restaurants that makes everything from scratch using as much local food as possible-vegetables from Verrill Farm, organic and hormone free meat from the Northeast Family Farm Collective, fish from local fisherman, dairy products from Crystal Brook Farm and High Lawn Farm. To me, supporting local food producers isn't just political-the food is often fantastic as I have discussed in many previous posts. I also don't know of that many restaurants in the Metrowest/Route 9 corridor that are making a concerted effort to support local foods like Tomasso. (If you do, add a comment!)

And at Tomasso even the food that isn't local is still wonderful. For example, on both visits I have so loved the olive oil that is served with their focaccia and wasn't surprised to find out that they buy it directly from a vineyard in Calabria, Italy. The texture is almost creamy,with a peppery bite as it goes down.

The style of food is Tuscan, and the menu is pretty lengthy. It also varies seasonally so that they can take better advantage of what is available. We actually were offered the meal at Tomassos just before the spring menu took effect, but hopefully our meal will give a sense of what they offer. 

Although Tomasso offers a wide range of grilled vegetables and other antipasti, I started with Maryland soft shell crabs. They were lightly fried with just enough salt and pepper and served our watercress with blood oranges. The crabs were delicious, as was the salad, though it would have benefited from a bit less dressing to let the flavors of the cress and citrus through.

My husband enjoyed a small pizza. It was perfectly blistered and was incredibly light. Although they have a few options, he kept it simple and tried one with bufala mozzarella, pureed tomatoes and fresh basil. Their pizzas could work as appetizers for a few adults or a light main dish for a child.

My second course was pretty heavenly. It was a huge homemade ravioli filled with creamy marscapone cheese, black truffle and an egg yolk.  It was covered in a thin sauce with scallions and grated Parmesan. What this meant was that when I cut into it the flavors melded together and were scented with the truffle oil. I could eat this for breakfast every day (and, yes, have a heart attack!) This was rich and so good that I almost lapped it up. Instead I just reached for more bread.

My husband stands by his claim that his main dish was the best version of short ribs that he ever had. They redefined the phrase "meltingly tender."  The parsnip puree was a sweet and perfect bed for the red wine reduction and as a contrast to the rich ribs. Our waitress had pointed out that their portions aren't huge, and in fact, in this case, the two ribs were just enough to enjoy it without feeling overwhelmed.

I had a simple but delicious sole that was covered with a scattering of still crunchy slivered almonds.  It was redolent of olive juice and served with wonderful warmed olives on the side.

Finally, our desserts. While the gelato was creamy, it tasted opposed to full of flavor.  I tasted milk, than almond, rather than pure amaretto, for example. However, that didn't prevent FoodieDaddy from devouring it! He also enjoyed the "Budino" or lemon pudding.  While I think this is one of those cliched desserts, what separated it from others were segments of grapefruit and blood oranges that brightened the dish as a whole.

So, back to where it all began. We had enjoyed our meal tremendously. But then we were served, the crostada. And it was truly fantastic.  The hazelnut crust alone could be worth the trip to Tomasso. It was perfect-crumbly and crunchy, salty and sweet and full of hazelnut chunks. The goat cheese was fruity and smooth without being overpowering. Lime zest added a perfect contrast and lightened the dish. However, the honey, ironically, rather than adding too much sweetness added a smooth note. If you are lucky this will still be on the menu when you go.

The reality of Tomasso is that it isn't cheap. Everything is a la carte and it could add up. So, a few thought.  You could take the kids-there are 8 "kitchen-side" seats that would be great fun, and a small children's menu (with pizza and pasta in the $8.00 range). Or you could leave them home and have a relaxing meal. There is also a $30.00 prix fixe during the week and, finally, if you just had a few appetizers or a small pasta (I ate their bolognese on a previous visit and still remember how good it was), you could keep the cost to around $20.00.

Lastly, though, this meal was not just good. It was excellent. And knowing that the bill goes, in part, back to the community somehow makes it that much easier to actually feel really good about eating out.

1 comment:

  1. their market next door is wonderful too
    terrific wines, friendly and knowledgeable staff
    check out one of their weekend wine tastings or cooking classes