By Nelson Hansen
herenb.com – Pomodori highlights ‘lowly tomato’ – Breaking News, New Brunswick, Canada
It’s a new concept in dining that’s actually centuries old:
Food that tastes great, offers a culinary insight into
local flavours and treads lightly on the planet.
That’s exactly the concept behind Rothesay’s Pomodori pizzeria recently opened by Saint John area foodies Stephen Goddard, Keith Dunphy and Janice MacPherson.
The idea of opening a pizza joint is nothing new or revolutionary, but the measures in which the entrepreneurial trio has taken to attain a level of authenticity certainly are. While New Brunswickers have been settling for what Goddard calls “American style pizza”, Pomodori serves up traditional Italian pizza recipes cooked the traditional Italian way.
On a busy Tuesday evening Goddard and MacPherson spoke with [here] while Dunphy manned the gorgeous copper topped wood fired oven tending to a seemingly endless stream of customers.
“We’ve been business partners for quite some time,”
Goddard says. “Every time we’d get together for dinner we’d spend more and more time talking about the food we were getting, the service we were getting, what was good what was bad etc… After doing this for about two years we got tired of listening to ourselves and we started discussing food service concepts. We played with a lot of options, but we always came to the fact that we all missed the kind of pizza we’d had elsewhere, whether it was living away or travelling.”
Going back to the source for authentic recipes and flavours has led the owners of Pomodori to embark on a business plan that focuses on both flavour and sustainability. Recent food movements like the 100 mile diet and so-called “loca-vore” eating have led Goddard, Dunphy and MacPherson on a journey that’s resulted in finding top quality ingredients very close to home.
“This is what the three of us do in our own homes. It’s not part of a fad or anything, we just want quality, good tasting ingredients that are good for us,” MacPherson explains. “We’re all part of a community agriculture program that brings us fresh vegetables during the growing season. We all get our meat through (local organic butcher) Kuinshoeve Meats and they supply the restaurant as well. We know everything is all natural and organic and it simply tastes better.”
While the very notion of buying local and organic ingredients may foster visions of Birkenstocks and
whiffs of patchouli oil, sourcing ingredients in this manner means great taste and believe it or not, as
Goddard explains, good business.
“This makes absolute good business sense,” he says. “What we’re doing isn’t part of a trend. It makes good sense to buy locally for so many reasons. It’s about quality and freshness, but it’s also about cost. As consumers when we spend a dollar in Maine or in Ontario as opposed to right here, we all pay for it. It affects jobs here, it affects the tax rate. This all trickles down and eventually we all pay for it. We’re not doing this to be trendy, we’re doing it because it makes sense.”
In case you were wondering, the word Pomodori is Italian slang for what Goddard calls “the lowly tomato”, a vegetable that often serves merely as a base in sauces. In his travels Goddard found an authentic tomato sauce recipe while in Milan. The combination of fresh tomatoes, an authentic sauce and Pomodori’s dedication to taste elevates the restaurant’s namesake to the star of the show. Most of us are accustomed to pizzas smothered in heavy cheese with a thick, doughy crust. Pomodori’s crispy thin crust and proper proportioning of ingredients allows the taste of each topping to shine through. The first bite may reveal to many diners the very first time they could actually taste their pizza sauce. When’s the last time anyone talked about a pizza’s sauce?
As MacPherson explains customers constantly comment on how the taste shines through.
“People come to us and tell us they can tell us every ingredient that was in their pizza simply from tasting it. That’s very rare.”
At the heart of Pomodori is the wood oven. Remarkable in its size, the copper domed oven serves double duty as cooking source and visual focal point for the restaurant. Cooking at a blistering 800 degrees Fahrenheit, the oven cooks a thin crust pizza in about 120 seconds. While diners are served with fast food efficiency, those fresh local ingredients guarantee more nutritional value than a Big Mac or a BK Stacker. In fact cooking the pizza quickly is a small part of the taste equation. Dough is “proofed” or aged for 24 hours before going into the oven. This process gives it extra flavour. While the pizza comes remarkably quick, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that actually makes Pomodori pizza a “slow food”.
Finding the right oven was a journey that began in Goddard’s backyard. Starting with converting a gas BBQ into a pizza oven and graduating to a home made brick oven, Goddard experimented with ovens that would bring him the high heat needed to create authentic Neapolitan pizza. His quest eventually ended when in a moment of serendipity Goddard and his business partners had learned that New Brunswick flour producers Speerville Flour could not only provide them with local and organic flour, they’d also become distributors of French made Le Panyol wood ovens. The oven that’s the focal point of Pomodori is one of two in North America and the only one in Canada.
“It’s a delight for the senses. Not only is this oven an amazing wood oven that produces great food, it’s a work of art. It’s beautiful to look at. Any other oven would have to be put behind a wall. It helps us provide more of a food experience as opposed to just coming in to eat.”
The oven also helps Pomodori in its goal of treading lightly on the earth. By sourcing firewood from Carlisle Farms, a reputable woodlot that operates with sustainability as a key priority, the oven has a Xerox carbon footprint. By the time it has burned through a cord of wood, a new growth has been raised.
The owners of Pomodori have extended their commitment to the environment by recycling everything that can be recycled and composting all food waste and take-out drinking cups aren’t made of plastic, but of biodegradable corn starch.
As well, Pomodori’s local focus extends beyond sourcing local ingredients. They’ve started a program to fund community groups not by offering free pizza for special events but by donating all refundables for a week. Community groups and sports teams can request a week and pick up all refundable cans and bottles for that week. Potentially 52 community groups per year can benefit from this unique community support program.
With a traditional wood oven in place, the trio sourced traditional pizza recipes including the granddaddy (or grandmother) of them all Pizza Margherita. Named after Italian Queen Margherita, the Italian red white and green is represented with tomato sauce, bocconcini cheese and fresh basil. Simple in design yet stunning in flavour, the Margherita is an excellent starting point in an exploration of traditional pizza making. Pomodori also offers several other authentic pizzas as well as the option of building your own.
Not content in creating the best possible pizza experience in the area, Goddard, MacPherson and Dunphy expanded their search to include items that paired well with their unique pizzas. A wine list created by local sommelier (and [here] contributor) Craig Pinhey offers excellent choices to compliment your meal. Needless to say, some wonderful and well-priced Italian wines steal the show while an excellent Canadian Baco Noir can’t be overlooked.
Pomodori’s commitment to freshness extends to their dessert and coffee menu as well. In keeping with maintaining a focus on traditional Italian dining, the owners of Pomodori create their own Gelato with flavours changing daily. Gelato is ice cream’s Italian cousin. Made from milk, sugar and flavourings, gelato has 35 per cent less air than ice cream offering a denser, more flavourful bowl of after pizza.
The restaurant has been open since early June in what the trio are calling a “soft opening” phase, keeping a low profile while they iron out any bugs before they begin announcing to the public a grand opening of any sort. There have been discussions on marking a grand opening to coincide with the harvest season, a natural fit given Pomodori’s theme. While the owners have been keeping relatively tight lipped for now, diners have been emphatically sharing their dining experience on blogs and message boards like Giraffecyle and iSaint John. The result has been a strong wave of positive word of mouth that has led diners to the Hampton Road location in Rothesay to sample the unique and fresh pizza Pomodori has to offer. The owners have remarked that viewing comments on the message boards shows that people are becoming passionate about their food.
With our attention turned to rising fuel costs and world wide food shortages, dining is becoming to come full circle. Like in the days before the internal combustion engine, perhaps the best food choices may be the ones that lie within a very local radius. It may just surprise you just how delicious those choices may be.
“This is the way my grandparents got food not 50 years ago,” Goddard summarizes. “It was the only way they could get their food. There was only a handful of things that came from outside of their local area like sugar, flour, salt and pepper. Everything else was from about a ten mile radius. We’re going back to that and that’s making great food done locally.”
Visit Pomodori at 83 Hampton Rd. Rothesay, 847-9336 or on the web at www.pomodori.ca