I was invited to attend the Red Tomato for the “Pie Tunes” pizza and drink tasting event on September 9, 2015. I know this review seems quite delayed, but I usually like to give the restaurant some time to iron out kinks that may have come up during the menu launch. And as I suspected, some things have changed since I was there for their party – my favorite pizza of the night for example, is no longer on their menu!
But let’s step back a second and let me tell you the story from the beginning….
I received an e-mail from Christine Bays through my blog inviting me to this party. Shortly after I accepted I received a link to the RSVP site. Once you RSVPd you were given the option to share that you had RSVPd “yes” on Twitter. Several friends saw that I was attending this party, and so they RSVPd as well. It turns out that this party was meant to be mainly for media, but until they figured out how to prevent people from accessing the RSVP site, anyone was able to RSVP.
Event – Part 1
The event started at 5PM but I had to work until 6:00PM that evening, so I arrived at the venue at around 6:30PM. By the time I got there, the restaurant was packed, and since there was very limited seating at tables, I squeezed into the bar. 6 friends had snagged a table on one end, and the rest of us were split around the bar (there were about 8 of us in total). Since several friends had been there since 5:30PM (they work in the area), they were able to give me the lowdown on their experience so far. The group at the table was having a blast! The drinks and pizzas were flowing non-stop. In fact, several admitted to already being full, and yet the waiters kept bringing more whole pizzas to their table. When I spoke to the friends around the bar – well, it was a different story all-together. They were not having fun. But, I needed to experience the service and food for myself to form my own opinion, so I sat at the bar and waited. And then waited some more.., 20 minutes later I was still sitting there with no drink, food, or even a hello! Needless to say, I was getting pissed. And to rub salt into the wound, I could hear my friends in the background laughing, drinking, and when I looked over, two more pizzas were dropped on their table! And here I sat, with my camera, waiting to get some God-damn photos so that I could get my ass home and crash (I had been working longer hours than usual and I only came to this event out of respect to Christine). A blogger friend came by and I told her how disappointed and annoyed I was with the situation. She sympathized with me and admitted to feeling like groups were given time and attention, while people dining alone were completely ignored. And truth be told, my BIGGEST pet-peeve in the food industry is when lone diners are treated like second-class citizens. As an avid lone traveler and diner, I find it ridiculous to see that in Toronto so many establishments still continue to think that pleasing the group over the single diner is better business practice (fyi, I am the only person blogging about this event – none of the friends sitting at a table who were spoiled throughout the night reviewed this event). It is during moments like this that I wish I was back in Paris or somewhere in Italy where dining alone is nothing out of the ordinary and service does not deviate based on group size.
Event – Part 2
After having someone point out who Christine was, I was able to call her over and asked her if it would be possible to try a couple of pizza slices so that I can get my butt home and not feel like I completely wasted my evening. She apologized and told me that there was a delay in the kitchen, and would get a pizza out to me as soon as possible. I told her that it was not just me, and proceeded to show her my side of the bar – none of the people on my side of the bar had been served. Just then my friends at the table (no flicking joke!) got another pizza placed on their table! And that was it! I got off my stool and walked over to their table, and took the pizza from their table and brought it to the bar. The waiter stood there with his mouth open, in complete shock over what I had done. And I told him that they were FULL! And that half the bar was starving! My friends nodded their agreement and admitted to being full, while they pointed to the leftover pizzas still on their tables.
Okay, I know I was pissed by the time I got to try the food, so how could I like the food when I already had a bitter taste in my mouth? Sigh. All I can tell you is what I thought in the moment, and the moment I tried the pizza, I was not impressed. The toppings however were good. The garlic shrimps for example were amazing! If they sold them in a bowl, I would happily order it. I did enjoy the Spinach and Artichoke pizza – the ricotta was creamy and delicious – but alas, they have taken it off the menu. I did not try many of the pizzas because most had onions, and I don’t eat onions. My favorite pizza has always been the Margherita, but this version of my favorite pizza had the wrong cheese (personally, I think it should always be made with buffalo mozzarella), and the dough became chewy and tough the minute it cooled. I love Neapolitan pizzas, and this was not that.
Did you know…..(thanks Wiki!)?
The genuine Neapolitan pizza dough consists of wheat flour (type 0 or 00, or a mixture of both), natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer’s yeast, salt and water. For proper results, strong flour with high protein content (as used for bread-making rather than cakes) must be used. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer. After the rising process, the dough must be formed by hand without the help of a rolling-pin or other machine, and may be no more than 3 millimeters (0.12 in) thick. The pizza must be baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 °C (905 °F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire. When cooked, it should be soft, elastic, tender and fragrant. There are three official variants: pizza marinara, which is made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil, pizza Margherita, made with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra-virgin olive oil, and pizza Margherita extra made with tomato, mozzarella from Campania in fillets, basil and extra virgin olive oil. The pizza napoletana is a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) product in Europe. The TSG certification attests that a particular food product objectively possesses specific characteristics which differentiate it from all others in its category, and that its raw materials, composition or method of production have been consistent for a minimum of 30 years.
Check out the pictures from that night…..
Once I had tried the pizzas that did not have onions, and got photos of a few more, I took off. The next day I received a message from Christine apologizing for the negative experience I had, and invited me and 4 guests to return and try their regular menu. I hate judging a restaurant on a single experience, so I wholeheartedly agreed to return. Several weeks later, my friends and I returned. And I am so glad we did! The dining experience was a million times better for me!
Stay tuned for that post!