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Fresh Is Everything


Mitch Tobias

Been to Tomatina lately? It’s worth revisiting.

A Park Street favorite, Tomatina, which opened shop in Alameda in 2004, was shuttered for nine short days in the fall, says general manager Steve DiGuilio, for interior redecorating, and when the doors swung open, they revealed a spiffy remodel: new tables, cabinets, booths, granite bar and brick wall. Indoor capacity increased to 115 patrons, up from 95; and the outdoor back patio now seats 24 people, up from 20, DiGuilio says.

A few things, namely the pizza oven; chef, Oscar Soltero, a 14-year veteran of the five-outlet chain; and the menu, other than the often-changing seasonal specials, remain the same.

On a recent visit, two offerings simply bowled us over: the ribollita, a creamy white bean soupy-stew brimming with Calabrian sausage; and the Brussels sprouts salad, a medley of fresh spinach, hard-boiled egg, red onions, pine nuts and pancetta vinaigrette. Delicious—same as Tomatina’s signature piadine, especially the caprese. That bread for the piadine (essentially, an Italian flatbread sandwich) and the pizza dough? Yep, cooked right in the glowing oven, the heart of Tomatina, which came to new owners, North Bay Restaurants Tomatina, in September 2011, DeGuilio says. The remodel and new logos are components of a rebranding effort, he says, though the restaurant remains as committed as ever to customer-centric satisfying food.

The Tomatina emphasis these days is “fresh Italian,” he says, with strict attention on the seasonal and homemade aspects, from the practically-straight-from-the-farm ingredients to rich house-made sauces, in-house crafted pastas and thin-crust pizzas. Like the new tagline says, “Fresh means everything.”

What’s next for this family-friendly franchise? More restaurants—20 in 10 years, DiGuilio says, adding, “That’s expansion.”

Tomatina, 1338 Park Ave., Alameda,510-521-1000,

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