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After leaving California and coming to the Charleston area, I wandered aimlessly for years learning from my miserable experiences where not to go. Every once in awhile, hitting the jackpot in the foodie experience, I would find something to tell my friends about. My hope is to save you the wandering and guide you to the mouth watering areas of Charleston.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tomatoes Italian Ristorante

Mama Mia! I was in the mood for some pasta and it had been awhile since I had given Tomatoes a chance. Tomatoes is located in Summerville in a not so obvious location. However, their website boasts that they have been voted the best Italian food in the Low Country 2007-2010.

Upon entering the restaurant, I noticed right away some major changes. Part of the dining area was now walled in to create a quaint bar with a couple of tables where you can order tapas and drinks. However, I was hungry and tapas was not going to do it tonight.

After being seated, I was told that the menu had changed since we last visited. Of course one of the deleted items was the only thing I have ever eaten at this restaurant, which was the Baked Penne pasta with Italian sweet sausage and ricotta and mozzarella.

What I did notice was the "Tour of Italy" selection that was added to the menu. There were two options available for couples. One was $60 and the other $50, depending on which main entree you and your guest order. You had a choice of house wine, salad, an appetizer, two entrees, and a small dessert.

I went with the $50 selection. I went with the most popular appetizer of fried calamari and the most popular entree, "Mark's Favorite." My husband chose Linguini with marinara, sausage, and a meatball. "Marks Favorite" had chicken, sausage, spinach, and capers with a pink sauce. Lucky lush that I am, my husband doesn't drink wine so I got to have both glasses of Chianti to go with my pasta.

Complimentary bread and olive oil are brought to the table on arrival. I really liked how they added roasted red bell pepper, olives, and seasoning to the oil. If you're not careful, you'll fill up on the warm bread and oil before your main course hits the table.

I chose the Caesar salad, which I absolutely loved. I could have just eaten this salad and the bread and walked away happy and with a lot more money in my pocket. If you like anchovies, they will add them to your Caesar at no extra cost.

I have heard amazing things about the calamari here, so what I'm about to tell you is hopefully a one time occurence. The calamari was B-L-A-N-D. The menu says that there is seasoning and roasted chilis. I saw some canned green chilis underneath this mess drenched in olive oil, but I was pretty sure someone forgot to season it before it came out. The pieces were cut so thick I felt I was chewing on rubber bands. Sad...oh so sad. We took a couple bites and sent it back barely touched.

Our entrees weren't horrible. I thought the sauces needed a boost of seasoning. I really liked the sausage meatballs and capers in my pasta, which helped lend flavor to the dish. I say get rid of the chicken in this dish and add more of the yummy sausage meatballs and this dish would be oh so scrumptious. My husband's lone meatball tasted like a ball of ground beef. Mix that mammoth meatball with some sausage and seasonings or leave it out.

After two small slices of tiramasu, we paid a decent price for an overall decent meal. I was not "Wowed." However, what makes you think about possibly going back here is the staff. The people who work here are genuinely nice and helpful. The seating is comfortable and the tables not too close. The noise level is just right. I'm going to have to check out a few more Italian restaurants to see if I agree with Tomatoes being the "Best Italian in the Low Country."

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