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Food Dude

July 12, 2012
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You say tomato, I say Pomodoro’s

By Jim Duncan

Linguine alla vongole at Pomodoro’s, 111 Army Post Rd., 953-7530. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Readers’ tips keep delivering nice surprises. Tip No. 1 this week took me to Pomodoro’s (“Tomato’s” in Italian), which is not part of the similarly named farm-to-table chain based in San Francisco. This tomato is more of a testimony to the adage about not judging a book by its cover. From the outside it looks like a dive that might be closed. Margarita specials are scribbled on the front window in white paint — not what one expects at an Italian restaurant. The interior, however, is charming. It was originally designed by Jose Berber, a longtime designer at Meredith, when he opened La Fonda here. Later it became the first home to Gustav Perez’s La Hacienda before that place moved several blocks to a larger venue. This spring, Perez reopened the venue as Pomodoro’s.

The idea of Mexicans cooking Italian food comforts me. Author Tony Bourdain famously claimed, “No French restaurant could survive in New York City without Poblanos (people from Pueblo) as line cooks.” Similarly a peak into the kitchens at top restaurants like Centro and Django suggests Des Moines owes a similar debt to chefs from Morelia and Michoacan. There are other comforting things about Pomodoro’s. Some of the staff has carried over through all three restaurants and, yes, margaritas are still the featured specialty of the bar. I also got the feeling that just about everything was being cooked “a la minute” (when ordered). After ordering vitello alla Milanese, described as “thinly pounded breaded veal,” I heard the chef pounding away in the kitchen with a mallet. That dish, which morphed into pork tenderloin in Iowa, was beautifully executed and served with arugula salad. An antipasto platter delivered excellent roasted and peeled peppers, interesting mozzarella and good olives but disappointing mortadella, prosciutto and salami.

A fresh pea soup dazzled with a puree of peas and chicken stock with fresh garden peas added. Mushroom risotto clicked, too, with an Arborio perfectly cooked. Tagliatelle alla Bolognese delivered the famous pork and tomato sauce of Emilia-Romagna’s fat capitol. Linguine alla vongole brought clams in their shells with a buttery sauce of white wine and clam broth, with al dente pasta. Calamari disappointed — large strips, no whole babies. Spaghetti delivered two large meatballs, barely browned but nicely textured, and a red sauce that included a surprising number of sun dried tomatoes. A cheesecake tray presented three options in sensible portion sizes rarely seen in this town.

Pomodoro’s also carries La Hacienda-like value prices. Lunch specials, which all included a salad course, cost around $8. Generous sandwiches, or hoagie rolls, were just $5 and $6, even for fresh tuna and fried fish. At $17, a ribeye steak with potatoes and vegetables was the most expensive entree on the menu. A touted scallops special was just $14. Most pasta dishes cost $9, and most other entrees cost $13. A menu of $5 side dishes included broccoli rabe, oven roasted peppers with potatoes and wild mushrooms.

Reader tip No. 2 sent me to the new Beaverdale Farmers’ Market, a virtual oasis in this summer’s record setting heat. Most local farmers’ markets are set on sunny concrete streets or asphalt parking lots. This Tuesday market sets up on the heavily shaded grass of Beaverdale Park. It’s been attracting some outstanding farmers, some who have deserted the downtown market, including Sheeder Farms (who supply Baru66 with meat), Madsen Farms (who raise pork for Niman Ranch) and Turtle Farms (who grow rare things for several top chefs). The market’s vibe is as laid back as Beaverdale itself. Rather than blasting shoppers with loud amplified rock, the music has been acoustic on each of my visits. Folks lingered and even picnicked.

Side Dishes

Aaron King (Dos Rios, Big City Burger & Greens) won this year’s Top Chef Challenge with a trio of presentations of bone-in ribeye… Americana’s $13 “all-you-can-eat” fried chicken dinners are creating a popular destination for Monday nights. CV

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