Hot Eats: Mad Tomato
Vito Racanelli Jr. serves up another hit with the opening of Mad Tomato.
With Mad Tomato, Vito Racanelli Jr. adds another dimension to his repertoire of St. Louis restaurants. Yes, it’s Italian, but that’s where the similarity ends between the veteran chef’s successful Onesto Italian eatery in South City and his new Southern Italian destination in Clayton.
You could classify Mad Tomato as a fancier version of the playful, family-friendly restaurant in South City with flavors and ingredients that reflect an authentic Southern Italian meal. The interior, while minimally adorned, is chic and eclectic with red metal chairs contrasted by lines of photographs along the walls and a sleek, rustic wood bar. There’s also a nice tree-lined patio that overlooks Carondelet Avenue.
A Taste of Italy
What I like most about the menu is the range of options; I can order adventurous with the trippa Napoletana (tripe with onions, olives, tomato and breadcrumbs) or stick to a classic comfort with roasted eggplant skins or a salumi platter.
Pizzas are delectable, made with hand-tossed dough and baked crisp in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven. The taste variations are incredible; combinations include the wonderful margherita with standard ingredients and a sweet and savory salsiccia with Italian sausage, peppers, onion and whole garlic cloves. Chef Vito gets much of the menu’s ingredients from local farms and buys seasonal, which is evident in the quality and taste (and also means menu items change frequently, so be sure to check madtomatostl.com for the latest updates). Fresh wild mushrooms play well with smoked mozzarella and arugula in the fungi pizza, and the bianca was a hearty and satisfying blend of roasted garlic, fresh ricotta, onion and oregano.
Focaccia bread comes pre-meal with olive oil. (It’s definitely a challenge not to fill up on the warm and airy serving.) The Hunter’s egg appetizer was quite possibly my favorite menu item; I loved the unexpected textural outcome of combining polenta with bits of pancetta and beans and a perfectly cooked egg in the center. Pasta options are fresh and vegetable-laden—like the fettuccine and braised rabbit with carrots and fava or a to-die-for egg yolk ravioloni with roasted asparagus, and pancetta, with pecorino cheese and black pepper. You’re in good hands with Chef Vito and his pasta—or any of his entrées, like the lamb meatballs with fingerling potatoes or chicken spiedini with creamy asparagus risotto and pea tendrils.
The desserts add another element; think classic tiramisu with hazelnut bark and chocolate, cannoli served crispy with ricotta cream and candied orange, and an absolutely amazing pistachio tart with salted caramelized pistachios and chocolate.
Where to go
8000 Carondelet Ave.
Pizza: $11-$16, Entrées: $19-$24
Hours: Tues.-Thurs., 11am-9pm; Fri., 11am-10pm; Sat., 5pm-10pm
Mad Tomato dishes
Margherita pizza with tomato mozzarella and whole basil leaves.
Photo credit: Photos by Jennifer Silverberg