By Heather Hoch
By Eric Schaefer
By New Times
By Rachel Miller
By Eric Schaefer
By Heather Hoch and Lauren Saria
By Robrt L. Pela
By Heather Hoch
Maggiore, back in the '70s, was one of the first restaurateurs to introduce Valley diners to homemade pasta, and to make simple spaghetti a decorator dish. Today, no self-respecting Italian eatery would dare admit serving the dried stuff (although many still do) because there is a real difference in flavor. Maggiore also was one of the first to lecture us on proper saucing -- not the bucket drenching found in so many noodle houses of the era, but light applications of fresh oils, herbs and vegetables, with just a little meat, perhaps, for richness.
Nothing has changed, with spaghetti elevated to a feast, aromatic with good semolina tones, and dressed in a restrained coat of prosciutto, mushroom and veal Ragú. I fork over an extra three bucks and add a broiled sausage, coiled in a long link of pork packed with surprising extras of chopped rapini, provolone, pecorino cheese, herbs and onion. Crisp-skinned and firm, the sausage hints of tarragon.
I'm expecting a heavier sauce with my roasted chicken, ricotta and goat cheese-stuffed ravioli, but am content with the mellow wild mushroom and olive oil blend I receive (more seasoning would be better, though -- there's not a whole lot to keep my interest in this dish). Tomaso's has saved the heavier stuff for its more assertive smoked chicken, tossing big bits of bird with rigatoni in a delicious, thick Parmigiano cream sauce.
Spaghetti ferrarese: $11.95
Medaglioni alla pizzaiola: $22.95
Sicilian feast day braciole: $19.95
Lobster ravioli and scampi: $25.95
Hours: Lunch, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner, Monday through Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m.
Diners craving something sweet will find solace in eggplant tortino with butternut squash ravioli. Five pasta pockets burst with creamy, sugary squash in a smooth tomato, cream and olive oil sauce sprinkled with fresh herbs, nestled up to a slab of firm eggplant draped with soft mozzarella. Lobster ravioli and scampi is another confection-touched treat, given the sweet character of the seafood. There's a lot of lobster let loose here, studded with chopped asparagus and red pepper. Two full strips of asparagus lend a nice crunch next to the enormous, lemony prawns sautéed with mushrooms in a white wine, lemon and butter sauce.
My new favorite pasta, though, is Tomaso's four cheese agnolotti. What a pretty plate, the half moon-shaped ravioli striped in green and yellow pastas, and bloated with mascarpone, fontina, Parmigiano and Sardinian ricotta. It's available as an entree, but I like it served alongside excellent veal parmigiana, the meat pounded thin in a chunky tomato purée.
Meat lovers don't miss out, either, with two of my picks including medaglioni alla pizzaiola; and Sicilian feast day braciole. Medaglioni is a fancy name for buttery tender filet mignon, seared to a little less than our requested medium-rare, stocked with wild mushrooms sautéed with garlic and tomatoes, and topped with robiola cheese. Braciole, meanwhile, is a hefty pork tenderloin stuffed with provolone, toasted pine nuts and currants in a prosciutto, tomato and herb sauce. The pork has been so finely pounded it cuts almost like ham, while simple potato gnocchi served alongside are delightful, slippery and firm specimens.
Will Tomaso's take over the rest of the Valley? It could happen, and that would be just fine with me. There are plenty of neighborhoods that deserve so much better than just another corporate "Spaghetti 'R' Us" Italian experience. And Maggiore might be just the man to do it.