Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pomodoro East

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Pomodoro East
701 Porter Road
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A bustling restaurant on a Friday night is a thing of beauty; a first date couple sharing a pizza at one table; a group of friends ordering the second bottle of wine at another. The space should enhance that feeling- at once bringing everyone together and yet giving each group a little island of warmth. The transformation of Pomodoro East is dramatic. While Cooper’s on Porter had a dark, woodsy feel, Pomodoro is opened up, livelier and an altogether better space. It’s not surprising given the ownership. Chef Willy Thomas and his wife Yvette run Park Café and Eastland Café. Both spaces capitalize on lively and warm. Chef Joe Shaw has partnered with them on this Italian trattoria.

The wood fired oven can be seen glowing from the open kitchen. It’s used to good effect with their pizza. The dough is sweet, airy and crisp. A generous dose of olive oil, artichoke, goat cheese and roasted garlic makes for a splendid pie. The Pomodoro is a classic American-style pizza with the same light crust and yet a more substantial tomato and cheese topping. The bright tomato sauce brings each slice to life. The chicken pizza leaves the tomato aside and is perfect with just cheese and olive oil. These pizzas are substantial and well-crafted. Each has a little char on the far outside of the crust to remind you of the wood oven.

Salads do well, from the anchovy Caesar with a mozzarella crisp on top, to a fresh house salad with arugula and radicchio. Salads are always a good pairing with pizza and pasta. The Spiedini is a bit unusual. It’s usually a grilled meat or veggie dish. This version brings grilled mozzarella bread in a light cheese sauce. It was a hit at the table even if it wasn’t what we expected.

Crab ravioli was served al dente and perhaps a bit too al dente. It was chewy to the point of being underdone in parts. The properly cooked parts were tasty. Shrimp scampi pasta had a light touch of olive oil, garlic and salt, giving the shrimp the opportunity to take center stage. Gnocchi were a real treat and once again served in an original style. They’re formed into discs, rather than the typical rolled spheres. The gnocchi was perfectly cooked for a balance between texture and fluffiness. The decadent parmesan and butter sauce put it over the top. It was one of our favorite dishes of both visits.

Veggie Eater: Lots of veggie friendly options here and you can opt for half orders on the pasta dishes, which allows you to experiment more and is amenable to a family style or Tapas sort of approach to dining. During one of our visits we had a group and availed ourselves of the family style approach, with many items in no particular order. There’ve been rumblings about service, but family style lends itself nicely to the bustling atmosphere as food appears as it is ready. The rosemary focaccia is delightful; the top is crusty, the inside doughy, and it’s the perfect vehicle to sop up olive oil and balsamic. The house salad is carefully constructed with arugula, radicchio, roasted red peppers, olives (beware, not pitted), and ricotta salata cheese. It pairs perfectly with the sinful gnocchi. We ordered a side of polenta and I found it to be a bit bland; very rich and creamy, but not much flavor other than fat (it is cheesy -Ed.). My only other beef was that we had tried to eat here several weeks before with a friend visiting from out of town. We called and left a message for a reservation. When we arrived we found the restaurant closed for a private function (on a Friday night).

Meat Eater: We tried to eat out on the large patio, but needless to say it’s been popular this summer. They installed sun shades to cut back on glare and at night it lights up the neighborhood. Pomodoro East is a welcome addition to East Nashville. It’s festive, comfortable and has a lovely ambiance. We’ll be back.

We paid $56 with tax and tip on a dinner visit and $120 on another dinner visit for a party of five with plenty of wine.
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