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Aug 30, 2012 07:56 PM

The Crazy Tomato : A new Italian resto for us eastenders.

Well my family and I tried a new Italian resto called "The Crazy Tomato" and I was VERY impressed. This place just opened up about 2 weeks ago and they've basically ironed out most of their service problems as far as I experienced (based on reviews from first week customers). Now the co-owner of this place is very good friends with the owners of Fratellis and we noticed the head waiter, Jason, from Fratelli's working there while that resto is just getting re-built. However the cook staff have no ties with Fratelli's and the other owner of Crazy Tomato is the head chef.

The Crazy Tomato is located on the north east corner of O'Connor and St. Clair (East York area) in a building that used to be a Jesse Jr. and another resto before that. It's only competition really is a bar and grill across the street. They have their own parking lot, but it fills up quickly so if out of luck try one of the side streets off St. Clair. The main entrance is on O'Connor.

The interior is airy and they converted one of the walls into a garage door so they can open it up in the summer (which it was today). Quite clean and nicely decorated interior that leaned towards minimalist mixing light colours with dark accents. Dark wooden tables and chairs that can be pushed together for larger parties fill the room. The dress code is casual and they only take reservations for groups larger than 4. They are open Tuesdays to Sundays from 5 - 10 (dinner only for now).

We got there at 7 p.m. and we waited an hour due to several groups of at least 6 taking up several of the tables. However it was worth the wait. Our waiter was friendly and prompt. One of the owners and even our waiter apologized to us for the wait. The waiter suggested that if we had already looked through the menu while we were waiting earlier and knew what we wanted he would quickly send it through to the kitchen. We ordered the calamari as an appetizer, my wife and daughter each had a pizza and I ordered "The Crazy Porchetta".

The calamari fritti was one of the best, if not the best calamari fritti I've ever had. The first thing is that the calamari was FRESH not frozen and battered to order. Each piece was covered with a thin crispy nicely seasoned batter and the calamari itself was tender enough that they broke apart in your mouth. It was served with a creamy, garlicky yoghurt sauce.

My daughter had the pepperoni pizza and my wife had the Margharita pizza. They cook it to your specifications as my wife wanted her crust to be more doughy and it was served as such. Both pizzas were good sized pizzas for individual servings. These were thin crust pizzas and as mentioned cooked in a wood burning oven. My wife, who enjoys Fratelli's pizza, prefers The Crazy Tomato's pizza as it didn't have that cornmeal crumb that Fratelli's usually has. I tried a slice and it was quite good.

I had "The Crazy Porchetta". This dish is best described as Italian pulled pork. It was tender and juicy and mixed with the mushroom sauce it was braised in. The co-owner told me it is his own personal recipe and it takes many hours to make. I ate it slowly to savour it. It was served with grilled vegetables and a very buttery mashed potato.

For the three of us (no alcohol just pop) it came to, with dessert (one only and a specialty coffee), ~$87. I hope this place doesn't implode from it's own successes and continues with it's quality of food. I appreciate that I do NOT need to travel all the way downtown or Woodbridge for excellent Italian food.

The Crazy Tomato
2714 St. Clair Ave. E.
Toronto, ON.
M4B 1M6

BTW for all you Scarberians out there, the Scarborough connection is one of the co-owners is from and still lives in Scarborough.

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  1. We just got back from our first meal at The Crazy Tomato. I can honestly say that the food was good. I have had better Italian, but not for the price. It was quite reasonable, the atmosphere was good. The wait staff were mostly professional... We had some problems though. Our appetizer came out quite quickly. The mussels were great. Then the busperson wanted to clear the table asking if we wanted dessert... Not major, we told her we were still expecting food. Then tables that arrived after us were being served before us... And we saw our food come out to tables, be refused as not being ordered and then go back to the kitchen... Once the food arrived, it was okay. Not great, not outstanding, just good. The Fumicata pizza was supposed to have smoked panchetta and smoked cheese. It didn't. The pizza was good but not great. The Veal parm, my wife found to be salty and the pasta had a citrus note to it which she didn't enjoy. My son liked his Penne con Pollo. I tasted it and it was pretty good. Hopefully they can work the kinks out, but we are not going back for awhile. If people are still eating there in a month or two we may try again, but we won't be back until then.

    1. Oh MAN, you beat me to it. I'm not at all fond of the name. It sounds too much like those bland, touristy Italian places like you'd find on Front or King St's. I was going to take the plunge anyway since it's essentially right in my backyard. Thanks for doing more than taking all the worry out of it, but also making me feel confident about asking friends to try it with me.

      Fratelli is such a long trip from my home, it's nice to know I can finally get my pasta fix so close to home.

      A few questions. Are they licensed to sell alcohol yet? If they are, did you see the wine list? Is it okay? That's usually the biggest stumbling block out this way. (People, stop stocking your restaurant bar from the under $10 section of the LCBO.) Did you see any pasta go by? How'd it look/smell? Do they have a website? I can only find this:

      If they don't, then please oh please, to the owners, get a website. Make our lives easier and stop answering your phone for stupid questions and start answering it for reservations.

      14 Replies
      1. re: Googs

        Googs they have a website :

        My experience was different from originalrobsky's as we didn't experience any problems with service or the food. As I said the pizza was good, not the best I've ever had, but good none-the-less. Better than a few I've tried in T.O. We didn't order any pasta so I can't say anything about that either. However what we did order we truly enjoyed it.

        As for alcohol we didn't order any so I can't comment on that, BUT they have their license and wine was being served to several tables.

        I wouldn't say they rank up there with the high end Italian restos, but they are definitely NOT another East Side Marios. They serve, IMHO, decent fresh Italian fare.

        1. re: scarberian

          Thank you sooooo much. I'm so excited about having a sit-down Italian restaurant 5 minutes from my home that I've been looking for your response every couple of (waking) hours. Thanks for the website too. I could only find them on Twitter and Facebook which ain't what I need.

          Look, I don't need, nor want, it to be a high end experience. I want it to be that relaxing neighbourhood place you can go to any night of the week to unwind and get a nice dinner prepared by someone who knows what they're doing and gives a damn. Not pride. Give-a-damn. It's different.

          Your description gives me hope, but I promise to enter with no preconceived notions, okay? Wish me luck and, of course, I'll share the details.

          1. re: Googs

            When we went we had to wait an hour since we arrived during their busiest time 7pm. We were told it would be best to arrive between 5 and 6 because it starts to get crowded after 6 and tables become scarce.

            1. re: scarberian

              I took note of that from your original post. I'm working on a 4th to make the magic reservation number.

              So on a scale of 1-Fratelli, with Fratelli being a 10 in this case, where would you rank Crazy Tomato?

              1. re: Googs

                If they fix some of the service problems I have recently heard and originalrobsky has noted, I would rank them above Fratelli's. However Fratelli's is close to me and I have to see if there will be a change in their menu after the renos. That said, from what I experienced I would definitely go back.

                Friends of ours tried the place for the first time last night and they are big fans of Fratellis. They texted me that it was definitely better than Fratelli's (food that is). As with all OPINIONS on CH, go in with no expectations and take it from there.

                1. re: scarberian

                  Whoa! Fratelli is, to date, the high water mark for Italian east of Victoria Park. I didn't think it fair to ask how they compare to, say, Buca.

                  I respect your opinion very much. If you believe them better than that, then I believe you, taste unbitten. Both places can only be elevated from the existence of one another.

                  1. re: Googs

                    Maybe better than Fratelli's really is unfair since I haven't had their pasta dishes. Their calamari fritte is definitely better and I also enjoyed their pizza over Fratellis. I had their Italian style pulled pork which Fratelli's doesn't have so maybe I will hold off on my original judgement till I try their other dishes.

                    1. re: Googs

                      May still be - The Crazy Tomato is west of VP, hehehe...

                      1. re: Full tummy

                        True dat... it is East York, BUT still east end-ish. =)

                        1. re: Full tummy

                          Yes, Full tummy, it's ever so slightly west of VP. Due to our winding roads here, it was the best delineation I could make.

                          scarberian, I'd have to say they're not quite up to Fratelli standards yet. That takes consistency. The one thing they could do to improve on reliability is have chef taste each and every dish before they send it from the kitchen. It certainly shows promise and I know I'll go again. To make that again and again, they have to deliver on each plate every time.

                          1. re: Googs

                            Sorry to hear about the consistency. Did you experience the same problems as originalrobsky? As I said I haven't tried their pasta dishes (I usually don't order pasta at restos since it's something I can do at home). What did you think about their calamari fritti? I do miss Fratelli's grilled octopus and calamari.

                            1. re: scarberian

                              Oh no, overall we're all encouraged. We all decided we'd go again. I firmly believe that when an independent business opens in your own backyard, one should give it every chance. Suggesting tweaks instead of just walking away is the right thing to do. The client gets more of what they want (goods tailored to their needs) and the business gets what they want (customers).

                              About consistency, the calamari is a case-in-point. What you had was one of the best renditions of the dish. What I had was over-salted to the degree that it dampened all other flavours. Kinda the opposite of the desired effect. It's a shame because I can see how it, combined with the pesto-yogurt dip, could be decadent and refreshing all at once, or dark and light as I like to say.

                              Now you and I have eaten in enough of the same restaurants and eaten a few of the same dishes. I agree with you often. I can only think that chef didn't taste it.

                              Many, many cooks in the open kitchen. Only one chef. Make sure the pupils get graded.

                      2. re: scarberian

                        Any idea how long they waited for a table?

                        1. re: Googs

                          Sorry not sure how long they waited, however to be safe if you're going on a Saturday go between 5 and 6. By 6:30 it starts to get crowded.

            2. We celebrated my wife's bday at CT on Thursday. The place was quite busy and we had made reservations for 6 people @ 6:30 (minimum size for reservations). We were greeted by one of the owners and promptly seated. We ordered the calamari fritti, penne pollo, the gnochi, pizza, Ortolano sandwich and my brother ordered the Crazy Porchetta. 5 out of 6 of us were not disappointed. Unlike what happened to Googs, our calamari was not salty but seasoned just right. My father who is sensitive to salt enjoyed the calamari. Again consistency comes into play as Googs and originalrobsky both had problems with their meals, but we managed to enjoy most of our meal.

              The only drawback was my wife's gnocchi. Now this is more of personal preference. My wife prefers the potato gnocchi that is firmer and she had never experienced the other types of gnocchi. The gnocchi that CT serves is ricotta based which is lighter and softer than the potato kind. She said she really enjoyed the flavour of the meal, BUT the texture turned her off. She only managed to eat half her meal. We took the rest of it home and I gladly ate it for her the next day (gnocchi-licious!).

              My Ortolano sandwich is a vegetarian sandwich of grilled eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini (?), and peppers that is served with a simple salad of chopped lettuce (good home made dressing). For dessert I secretly ordered a cheesecake for my wife to celebrate her day and we thought it was excellent. The cheesecake was smooth and lemony tart.

              Overall our meal was a success. The gnocchi problem was more of personal preference towards a firmer texture and had nothing to do with flavour. My brother and father both enjoyed their meal and the calamari was seasoned just right. We had mentioned your concern Googs regarding the saltiness when we ordered it. Hopefully this will lead to more consistency. I will be returning in a few weeks with some of my colleagues so I will report back with other items from the menu.

              6 Replies
              1. re: scarberian

                I'll be going again soon as well. If they continue in the right direction they could be killer.

                In fact, I've been thinking all week I needed to pop on the board and say "where are my manners?" I forgot to mention the pasta you haven't (as far as I can tell) gotten around to yet.

                I had the braised beef pappardelle. The pasta itself was clearly freshly made, and as toothsome and delicious as you'd ever want. A real winner. Though I thought the dish could use a little kick, oh I don't know, maybe finish it with some fresh thyme before serving or maybe a sploosh of red wine in the sauce, overall it was solid. Braised anything pasta often needs a little, not a lot, of livening up, but this shows much promise. For that dish alone I'd give them another shot or two. (Not that they'll notice since they're definitely doing breathtakingly large business already.)

                1. re: scarberian

                  Beau and I have been back a couple of time since the September 15 writing.

                  On your advice, scarberian, we gave the calamari another try. They certainly did tone down the salt quite a bit. Not to give them a hard time, but it was hardly detectable at all. That's fine by me since salt is a very personal thing. On the hugely plus side, the calamari themselves were so tender as to practically melt in the mouth. Spectacularly well-sourced and prepared. I think I’m up to wielding a salt shaker. I’d like chef to try his hand at a grilled version since that’s still my favourite way, but I suppose it’s a little late in the year for really good local arugula to spike the dish.

                  On another night we shared the fennel & sausage pizza as an appetizer. WOW was that ever good. They have a deft hand with the toppings. Not overloaded to the point you can’t appreciate the crust and sauce. Loaded just to the proper accent point to make each bite a delight. Can't wait to try the rest of them. That’s two down and 12 to go.

                  Beau can be a bit of a provocateur, but only for the fun of it. Knowing how your wife felt about the gnocchi, he just had to give it a try. He's lucky he managed to eat as much of it as he did. One taste and I was in LOVE. I can see how the mouthfeel would be disturbing if you weren't expecting it. Encountering fresh made gnocchi is rare, properly executed rarer still, and I think we've all had the pencil eraser version served to us at one point or another. These were so delicate it recalled that first time Uni melted in my mouth. Surprising and sensuous. It begs to be eaten and often.

                  I had the seafood linguini which was positively brimming with shrimp, scallops, clams, and either mussels or calamari, I can’t recall which now. Serves me right for waiting so long to write this down. My only regret in ordering this dish was saying yes when the server asked if I wanted pepper. This dish needs nothing. Not a thing. It came out of the kitchen perfect, not a term I use lightly. If I could, I’d drink that sauce from a bowl.

                  Needless to say, Beau and I and our friends will be back often. I’m hoping they may experiment with daily made soups. It’s been years since I’ve had a good mushroom soup. Now if only they’d start Tweeting their specials… Hmmmm…

                  1. re: Googs

                    Glad it went well this time for ya Googs! I was able to speak to Nunzio who is the non-chef/frontman/co-owner and we got to talking about the food and recipes:

                    1) their sausages come straight from a local Italian butcher shop.

                    2) I told him about the gnocchi after he inquired if my wife enjoyed it last time. He told me that in the part of Italy where his mother is from, that is how gnocchi is made.

                    3) They are trying to make sure all the food is more or less consistent each and every time.

                    BTW construction is well underway for the re-opening of Fratellis. Can't wait for the grilled octopus.

                    1. re: scarberian

                      Any update to the Fratelli scenario? I'm relying on you and your spy network!!!

                      1. re: Googs

                        So far they're on schedule to open up around the middle to late February. I have seen new walls and as I've said the windows and doors are up. Hopefully no surprise red tape and then I can get down to business with the grilled octopus or calamari.

                        1. re: scarberian

                          Both! I'll help. Seriously, as much as I like Tomato, I really can't wait for Fratelli to return. I'll travel the extra looooong distance for somma-that.

                2. Congrats to the owners and staff for getting their first piece of press. Hopefully, that's just the beginning.

                  Good news scarberian et al, they introduced specials last week Now we'll never run out of menu. If only they'd post the specials on their Twitter and Facebook pages. Hmmmmmmmm.

                  1. One REVISION to my original post. Reservations are strictly for 6 or more people NOT 4 or more. See if you can get the center "harvest" table for your group next time. It's a very nice, organically shaped, long wooden table.