Monday, November 5, 2007

Review: Tomato Street (Coeur d'Alene)

221 W. Appleway Ave., Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814 (208) 667-5000

Tomato Street offers everything you might expect in an Italian restaurant thousands of miles away from Italy: checkered table clothes, soft lighting and red plastic tumblers. It also offers somethings you might not expect: entertainment for the kids and an extensive menu.

The most surprising thing about Tomato Street for me was their perfect Seafood Fettuccine. Yes, I said perfect. Too often Italian restaurants skimp on the seafood, under cook or charge a fortune for it. None of the above apply to Tomato Street.

I ordered the lunch sized portion of Seafood Fettuccine for $8.99 (which would be a perfectly fine dinner size for me). The menu promised shrimp, clams, calamari and scallops in a wine and cream sauce with fettuccine noodles.

When my order arrived, perched on top of the al dente pasta were two thick prawns. I dove right in to sample a prawn while it was hot and fresh. The meat was pink, firm and cooked just right. It was so good that I saved the second one for the end of my meal. Five baby manila clams surrounded the prawns. They were tender and sweet. Perfect enough I could have eaten a whole bowl of just clams.

The real deal breaker of seafood dishes for me is the calamari. One rubbery bite and the entire dish becomes sub-par. I tasted my first ring of calamari with a bit of hesitation and was not disappointed. It was absolutely tender without being underdone. From that point on, I was in love with my meal.

The creamy sauce was just thick enough to coat the pasta. The flavor of garlic complimented, but didn't overpower the seafood. A few slivers of sun dried tomato added the perfect amount of sweetness. My only complaint could be that the scallops were so small that I almost forgot they were there. But, what the scallops lacked in size, they more then made up for in quantity and flavor.

My meal was accompanied by a basic green salad consisting of romaine and iceberg lettuces, shredded carrot and store bought croutons. The House dressing - creamy garlic - can be overpowering in large quantities. I ordered mine on the side. Baskets of hot, soft garlic bread were kept stocked at our table. It made the perfect utensil with which to scoop up the sauce that remained after my pasta was gone.

The service during my visit was top notch. The children in the party were given balls of Play-Doh and a dried pasta necklace kit to entain themselves during the meal. Both were a big hit with Munchkin and his six-year-old cousin. The children's menu offers such things as pizza, macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers. All are nicer, homemade versions of the kid offerings at most restaurants. Kid's meals include beverages and ice cream for $5.29.

Our server was friendly and prompt in taking care of our needs. She even treated Munchkin to his own soda and ice cream, even though we didn't order a child's meal for him. She didn't want him to feel left out among his cousins. When one member of our party received the wrong meal, a new one was made in record time and a sincere apology was given.

Other items in the Tomato Street repertoire include smashed sandwiches, calzones, pizzas cooked in a wood burning oven and every type of pasta and sauce combination you could imagine. They also have many specialty drink offerings, including Italian Sodas and a lounge with a full bar.

If you hit Tomato Street on a weekend night, I'm sure the place will be packed. The long time Coeur d'Alene restaurant is not a well-kept secret.

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