Pomodori Ristorante e Salone

The very new Pomodori (tomatoes) Italian Restaurant and bar on West Stewart Avenue in Medford has arrived. Aficionados of the Cadillac Café will remember two of the new restaurant's owners — Jeff Lindow and John Bartow — from their efforts at Cadillac. Lindow, Bartow and Josef Banuelos, Pomodori's third owner, have been operating for three months in the space previously occupied by Las Coronas Mexican eatery, which had succeeded the popular and long-lived Linda's.

Many features at Pomodori are spot-on. The atmosphere is light, airy, and tastefully decorated so that the diner may relax without gazing at heavy-handed adornments of garlic, meatballs, and mustachioed chefs which festoon the walls of some Italian places. There is no discernible background Muzak. Patrons dine, they chat, they laugh, all in two dining areas blessed by large glazed tiles.

The front room has numerous windows, the back one is dimly-lit and a winner for romantics. The salone, or bar, has seating for nibblers plus a bistro menu.

The menu is comprehensive and fairly priced with almost no concessions to counterfeit dishes. If anything, the menu may be too ambitious but that is an issue between the owners and their guests. On a very busy Saturday night, we two adults and two youngsters dined well. When we arrived the kitchen was hammered but they cleared their backlog quickly and events unfolded at a reasonable pace.

The kids both ordered penne and cheese at $7.50 from the children's menu. This was accompanied by a green salad of very fresh greens and slightly sweet vinaigrette.

We all shared garlic onion and cheese bread for $5.50. A massive plate of toasted chunks of baguette arrived topped with cheddar, jack, garlic and diced green onion. Despite the absence of Italian cheeses, these were flavorsome.

I sipped on a Negroni cocktail for $8, same price for all specialty cocktails at Pomodori. The combo of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth was bracing. I then enjoyed a glass of Eden Vale Reserve Syrah and one of King Estate Pinot Gris, both for $8. The first was loaded with somber tannins but thoroughly enjoyable. The King Estate white was, predictably, a fine example of this popular style. The wine list is ample and fairly-priced, but I would like to see more Italian selections. For example, some single-vineyard soaves from Pieropan, Gini, or Inama.

My wife's lobster fettuccine at $19 was delectable. Generous hunks of crustacean were complemented by a sauce infused with lobster stock. Most pasta dishes, with soup or salad and bread, run from $17 to $19.

I had veal scaloppini with mushrooms, artichoke, hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and capers in a white wine sauce with linguine. Somehow the kitchen managed to cook the veal to tender perfection and also keep the dish truly hot. That was impressive.

Scaloppini means "sliced" but veal muscle must be cut correctly lest its fibers contract on cooking and produce a tough and wavy result. Pounding the slices to make them thinner is often recommended but that's a cheat and I don't think chefs Bartow and Banuelos employ it. The dish is often served with tart elements; lemon is one, to provide counterpoint to the delicate flavor of the meat. Yet I found myself picking out artichoke, capers, and dried tomato to relieve what was intense tartness. I admire robust Italian cooking, but the kitchen can easily back off on some of those high-acid elements for my taste.

The servers were gracious even in the midst of the rush. Front man and part-owner Lindow was omnipresent, dashing from spot to spot and murmuring orders to his staff. Jeff's obviously got a winner in Pomidoro but his voice is deep and his movements can be distracting. One hopes he will slacken his pace, turn on the charm, and ooze professional calm even though taxed mightily by his success.

— Hubert Smith

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