Tony Tomatoes has quickly positioned itself as a North Adelaide destination.
The menu remains fairly consistent throughout the year, with tweaks to key ingredients as seasons change.
Designed as an open-plan bistro-style space that spills out onto O’Connell Street, a heavy use of timber gives the venue an authentic feel. A tiled central bar is a hive of activity and we prop ourselves up at one of the high tables overlooking wait staff going about their business.
Shelving along the back of the dining room is stacked with kitchen ingredients, no doubt a practicality as well as helping define the theme.
Cannelloni verde is nicely al dente with a heavy tomato sugo and plenty of Parmesan on top and a subtle combination of pumpkin, kale and ricotta inside.
We skip the ‘Really boring steamed seasonal greens’ opting instead for a side of spelt salad that, while still seemingly healthy, is absolutely delicious.
Lentils, pine nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, currants and red onion are tossed together in a lemon dressing flavoured with parsley and basil. Sweet, crunchy and punchy, all the things you want in a salad.
Forkfuls of freshly cooked prawns scoop up slightly sticky black rice that is jazzed up with cherry tomatoes, garlic, chilli and shallots – testament to the Italian tradition of less is more.
The mostly Italian wine list is described using words such as spicy dark cherries or peaches and cream, so we know exactly what to expect when glasses of apple-strawberry Rosé from Basilicata and honey dew Soave from Verona land on the table.
Skipping the Jenny Craig Special pizza invokes pangs of guilt, and a little concern for the chef ’s sense of humour. But in the mood for chicken and without other options we hesitantly order Eat my Breast. Yes, really.
Fortunately the Eat my Breast pizza is much more enticing than the name. A medium wholemeal crust made with rye, oats and wheat germ is super crunchy on the edges and suitably doughy in the middle while a base of creamy basil pesto is full of flavour that infuses itself into shredded poached chicken, topped with freshly hewn radicchio and baby spinach leaves. A spiral of thick balsamic adds a balance of tart and sweet.
Daily desserts are chalked up on the wall and we decide to test Tony’s against the benchmark of some old favourites. Tiramisu is as good as any (once you get through an extra-thick top layer of cream).
The subtle coffee flavour of the tiramisu is a complete contrast to the affogato served with a shot of real Italian espresso. It would have you bouncing off the walls if not for the addition of Baileys and ice cream, which combine in perfectly naughty unison.
Tony Tomatoes is Italian food done right. The venue is fresh and fun, and the waiters entertaining. But the jury is out on some of the names of the dishes.
155 O’Connell Street, North Adelaide
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 5.30pm-late, Sunday, 12pm-12.30pm