Below is what I wrote about the noticeable quality of the tomatoes at Amalfi at a visit last year; it's something that can be a good insight into the quality of the restaurant. To note, Bollo's tomatoes were better during my most recent visit, but not exactly flavorful, much less the level of those at Amalfi.
Underripe, nearly tasteless, and even worse, tomatoes are commonplace across the dining landscape. To be fair, delicious tomatoes can be difficult to grow in the area and what usually gets shipped to local supermarkets, and restaurant supply stores, are bred for their transit-worthiness and shelf-life rather than their flavor. When eaten raw in salads, a common occurrence, the quality of a tomato is quickly evident.
An appetizing tomato in Houston has become a hallmark for me of a restaurant of some quality and effort, maybe ambition, too. Tomatoes eaten at two different restaurant on subsequent nights recently drove that point home.
On Thursday evening, I stopped at Bollo, the slick, new neighborhood pizzeria on W. Alabama in the space that used to be Sorrel. I ordered their Margherita pizza, which was served with slices of tomato, instead of the Neapolitan way that features an uncooked, light sauce of pureed tomatoes at its base. No matter, we don’t have strict naming conventions in this country, unfortunately, the tomatoes had unsightly, large yellow cores. Obviously not very ripe, these tomatoes were very bland, at best.
The pizza was still pretty decent, if not nearly the Mascalzone or Dolce Vita level, and I’ll likely go back for a casual Italian-inspired pizza in a nice setting and atmosphere. But, their tomatoes contrasted sharply with the tomato I had at Amalfi the next night.
You should expect that any tomatoes served at Amalfi, a restaurant featuring the cuisine of in and around the Amalfi coast from a native of the area, would be good. Tomatoes are a staple of the cuisine there, and are absolutely terrific from the famed tomatoes grown in the San Marzano area to the large cuore di bue to the small cherry tomatoes. Any decent replication of the cuisine would have to have succulent, flavorful tomatoes when meant to be eaten raw or lightly cooked. And, they were that Friday night at Amalfi.
Soon after the start of what was an excellent meal, I noticed a purple half-sphere left on the plate of the nearly finished appetizer of luscious buffalo’s milk mozzarella, lettuce greens and at least a couple of different types of heirloom tomatoes. I had almost missed it, a succulent, absolutely delicious tomato. It was terrific, and a reminder of one the joys of southern Italian cooking, no matter the provenance of the tomato. Something I wish more restaurant would take care in provisioning.
6100 Westheimer (between Fountain View and Hillcroft), 77057, (713) 532-2201
Initially published on July 11, 2015.
The Regina Margherita at Amalfi on a visit last week.