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Friday, May 22, 2009

Pomodoro, University Ave.

Pomodoro Grill on Urbanspoon
Pomodoro is a full-service restaurant on University Ave. serving "contemporary Italian cuisine." It's been in business for at least ten years, although I’m not sure if it’s had a wood-fired brick oven for all that time. Still, it’s not a latecomer to the wood-fired oven pizza scene, at least around here.
I shared a lunch with a friend this time, so I got to try two pizzas: the margherita and the “tradizionale,” which is basically a pepperoni pizza. We ordered the margherita with a regular crust and the tradizionale with a whole wheat crust.
The bottom of each pizza was dotted with charred spots (the one in the bottom photo is the margherita), and the edges were also somewhat charred, but the crust had a surprising lack of crispness. Pizza baked in a wood-fired oven can sometimes be too crunchy and crackly for my taste, but these were just the opposite. They were quite soft, and easily foldable, though the whole wheat flour in the tradizionale did lend it a bit of crispness.
Pomodoro’s margherita is similar to a “white” pizza, with olive oil, “regular” (a/k/a low-moisture) mozzarella, asiago, diced tomato, fresh basil, onion and garlic. Though a departure from the classic tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella, the toppings worked well together. My only complaint in that department is that it was pretty heavy on the cheese, which was just melted, soft and stringy, like the filling in a grilled-cheese sandwich. With its thin crust and relatively mild toppings, this pie didn't need quite so much cheese, and again I wished that it had spent a little longer in the oven, as I prefer my cheese a bit browned.
The tradizionale was good, not exceptional maybe, but good. The whole-wheat crust had a pleasant, slightly nutty flavor and aroma, with a bit of crunch. Here the cheese, though again generously applied, was better balanced against the tangy, slightly herbal red sauce and slightly crisp, tasty slices of pepperoni.
Overall, these were good, enjoyable pizzas, but they fell short of greatness, mainly because they just weren't sufficiently done, in my opinion. I'm not sure if that was due to the oven not being hot enough, too little baking time, or both. The charred spots suggested a pretty hot oven floor, so I had a hard time figuring out why the crust (which otherwise had a good flavor and texture) was so soft. I suspect that the thick layer of cheese didn't help, either. As a general rule, I think that pizza baked in a very hot oven should not only have a thin crust, but a thin layer of toppings, because the pizza can only stay in the oven a few minutes before the crust starts to burn from the heat of the oven floor. A thick layer of cheese and other toppings won't have time to cook properly.
Then again, maybe the customers are to blame. Though it may be starting to change as people become more familiar with the concept, a lot of local diners, I'm afraid, are apt to complain that their pizza is "burnt" if it shows much charring. I don't like burnt pizza either, but a nice char will give the pizza a crisp exterior and a toasty flavor that was lacking in Pomodoro's pizza on this visit. I liked it, but it didn't quite live up to its potential. I'll give it a B.

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