Written by Eric Taubert Tuesday, 26 January 2010 16:03
Just slightly out of the way, on Gladiolus Drive in South Fort Myers, is where you'll find the attractive building housing il Pomodoro Cucina Italiana -- a family owned restaurant specializing in home cooked Italian cuisine. Opened and operated by the former proprietors of Pasta & Pizza on Metro Parkway (mind you, we're going back a couple years now); Il Pomodoro is poised to take advantage of an area certain to see a growth spurt once our Southwest Florida economy revs itself up again. Attractive landscaping leads you behind the restaurant, where there's plenty of available parking. You'll pass a gurgling fountain and tropical foliage on your way to the entrance. The outdoor setting of this restaurant is sure to put you in a Florida frame of mind.
Once you're inside, il Pomodoro offers an extended feast for the senses...the scent of Italian cooking wafts through the exquisitely decorated, colorful, and comfortable dining room. In terms of visual atmosphere, this isn't your average Fort Myers Italian dive...this is what happens when an interior decorator is allowed full creative freedom with regards to a color palette. Bright purples and reds cover the walls and muted lighting falls on vibrant framed Italian-themed prints. Thick, black, utilitarian table coverings are crisscrossed with sterile, stark white lengths of butcher's paper. This is a comfortable dining room to sit in -- absolutely easy on the eyes.
My dining partner and I arrived for a late lunch. The restaurant was empty, but this is not uncommon phenomenon during the late lunch hours in SWFL. We were cheerfully greeted immediately by the sole working server who seated us at a wonderful window table. We were presented menus and a drink order was taken. Normally, I do red wine on a visit to an Italian restaurant -- but today I did the unthinkable and asked for a Diet Coke. My dining partner asked for a cappuccino.
Some fluffy garlic rolls with a freshly baked feel to them were brought to our table. A nice touch.
Our drinks arrived with a few problems. Whereas usually Diet Coke is a safe soft drink to order - this one was extremely flat and melted the ice almost immediately. Looks like the cold-plate inside the soda dispenser was never iced down for the shift - an important piece of opening side-work in any commercial kitchen. It was a little late in the day for this to be an issue.
Our server was apologetic as she placed her attempt at making a cappuccino in front of my dining partner. "If it's no good, let me know so I can take it off the check. I can never get that machine to work for me." It was no good. We chalked it up to a server training and/or equipment malfunction issue.
The menu at il Pomodoro is packed with appetizers, pizzas, subs, salads and a wide array of entrees including chicken, shrimp, sausage, salmon, clams, mussels, veal, and eggplant all paired with pasta an basic Italian style sauces. You'll see all the usual suspect Italian restaurant terminology including marinara, carbonara, alfredo, Marsala, scampi, caprese, pesto, Florentina, and so on. The descriptions on the menu are informative and Italian language verbiage is given liberal use.
We both chose signature entrees. My partner opted for the Cavatelli Arrabbiata. I went with the Linguine Gamberi. The price of both entrees included a cup of soup or house salad. We both asked for salads with Caesar dressing.
The salads were brought out quickly. They looked nice and were obviously composed of fresh ingredients. I know I can be a picky bastard -- but I need to admit I was let down that the salads weren't tossed Caesar salads, rather they were regular salads with some not particularly great Caesar-style dressing poured over them. The croutons and fresh-grated Parmesan kicked it up a notch. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a horrible salad...but it was forgettable.
As we ate, an enthusiastic chef in the kitchen spontaneously broke out singing on several occasions...quirky, but endearing.
Nice timing delivered our entrees to the table. Once again, they were both aesthetically pleasing with colors as vivid as the intensely hued dining room we were eating them in. Visible steam rose off both our properly portioned plates and the ingredients were perceptibly fresh. Fresh grated cheese was offered.
My dining partner's Cavatelli Arrabbitta was a mixture of chicken, onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper sautéed in olive oil with marinara sauce and cavatelli pasta. The dish was enjoyable, but a little more mild mannered than its angry name implied. Most restaurants are hesitant to spice up their dishes because they're afraid of offending unwary eaters. I say if someone orders a dish with "arrabbiata" in the name and "crushed red pepper" listed as an ingredient, and thought they weren't getting a spicy dish, then they deserve to get their taste buds singed. In il Pomodoro's defense, extra crushed red pepper was made available.
My Linguini Gamberi was defined on the menu as "shrimp, broccoli florets, and fresh tomatoes in a light garlic and oil brodino". The sauce was a little oil-intensive to be called a "brodino" (the Italian word for broth or soup) -- but otherwise this entree was exactly as described, simple and with subtle flavors.
Bottom line...I'm granting il Pomodoro Cucina Italiana a rating of Recommended with Reservations. They've got a handsome restaurant with a soothing atmosphere. Service was attentive. Their food is pleasingly presented and the ingredients are stunningly fresh, but the flavor profiles of their entrees were middle of the road for me. There were no big, bold, or pronounced flavors in attendance. Rather, think somewhere along the lines of Americanized versions of traditional Italian dishes. That said, their lunch prices offer incredible value for your money. Dinner prices for the same entrees are approximately three dollars higher...still a good deal when you consider the salad is included.
-- writing and video by Eric Taubert
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