I’ve been to Tomasso Trattoria in Southborough, MA, a few times before to enjoy their fresh spin on Italian cuisine. The restaurant offers several different courses and portion sizes and encourages customers to order as few or as many courses as they like (one to six courses) and to share dishes. Given these options, the restaurant has the potential to serve as a spot to linger over several courses, or to simply enjoy cocktails and appetizers.
We arrived and despite having made reservations, we were seated in a very cramped area near the kitchen. We, and nearby diners, were all told that there was a birthday party in the larger portion of the dining room. The hostesses were clearly aware that it was subpar seating, yet they continued to seat diners with reservations in uncomfortable quarters. One couple nearby was seated at a counter abutting the kitching that was more like bar seating; they were not moved or accomodated despite their clear distaste for their cramped stool seating. They didn’t stay long. Throughout the meal, servers bumped into us in order to serve nearby tables and jostled our table. It was a bit claustrophobic to say the least.
Despite our disappointing seating situation, we were ready to enjoy several small plates and desserts. The meal started strong with appetizers of Fontina in Carozza (fried fontina cheese served with salsa verde), Polpette (meatballs), and Suppli (fried spinach risotto balls with cheese).
The fontina cheese was perfeclty melted and oozing out of a perfectly fried crunchy outer coating. It was served with a pleasing salsa verde that did not overpower the mild cheese with its sweet onions and herbs. The Polpette were equally great. I’m not a huge meatball lover, but Tomasso could convert me with their perfectly tender beef and pork meatballs served with a lovely chunky tomato sauce and sharp parmesan gratings. They were perfectly seasoned and not at all dry. The Suppli were fried balls of perfectly al dente risotto with spinach and tallegio cheese. The flavors were well balanced and the suppli were appropriately moist and dense inside. The appetizers were a good value at $5 to $6 each, with decent portions provided.
We moved on to small plates, or Primi Piatti. The dishes we ordered, Risotto al Funghi (risotto with mushrooms) and Ravioli con Uovo (egg filled ravioli), were $11 and $12, respectively. Relative to the appetizers, these dishes were surprisingly expensive with much less food than expected. The Risotto was a bit too al dente for my taste and a bit on the salty side, but very flavorful with strong red wine and mushroom flavors throughout. The Ravioli was in fact one ravioli, albeit a large one. Given that the restaurant encourages sharing, it was surprising to receive one large ravioli that was very difficult to split. As soon as I cut into the ravioli, egg yolk seeped everywhere. The ravioli was tasty with inital flavors of black truffle followed by creamy mascarpone and egg flavors that mingled nicely on the palate.
I also enjoyed a glass of Montepulciano that was full-bodied and a little dry, while my husband had a cabernet sauvignon-merlot-sangiovese blend that was lighter and fruity.
After enjoying several small plates, we were excited to move on to dessert. We split an assortment of biscotti, semifreddo and mascarpone gelato. The biscotti arrived in abundance and included traditional biscotti and other Italian cookies including a lemon cookie with fennel seeds, a strawberry jam filled sugar cookie, and a nutella sandwich cookie. Some were a little dry, but most were very good and the variety was excellent. The semifreddo, which literally translated means half-frozen, is a frozen treat that is icier and less creamy than ice cream. Ours was served layered with mocha semifreddo, white and chocolate cake, and raspberry filling. It was interesting with some nice flavors, but not exceptional. The gelato of the day was mascarpone, but tasted more like an ice cream. More surprisingly, we could not detect mascarpone flavors at all – instead the gelato tasted like a very strong Amaretto ice cream, which was incredibly disappointing.
While enjoying our desserts, the manager approached our table full of questions and concerns about the semifreddo. He explained that he had hired a new pastry chef and was trying out some new desserts, including the semifreddo. He displayed a surprising lack of confidence about the nearly completed semifreddo on our table and was concerned that it might be too dry, or just disappointing. I admitted that the cake was a bit dry, but overall, we really enjoyed the semifreddo. I went on to ask about the gelato, which we were wholly confused by. I explained that the waitress had told us that it would be mascarpone gelato, but that it tasted like Amaretto. He explained that the chefs fold Amaretto in to the mascarpone gelato, then glanced at our still full melting bowl of gelato and scurried away. It was pretty clear that we had finished our biscotti and semifredo and avoided the overpowering Amaretto gelato. Amaretto was far too strong a flavor to pair with the mild mascarpone. We were disappointed that he didn’t address the issue. Worse, several waitstaff scurried by, asked if we were done, and cleared the rest of the dishes. While we waited a significant amount of time for our check to arrive and be taken care of, our gelato sat and sat, melting into an unappetizing yellow pool of liquid. Nobody asked if there was a problem with it, and nobody seemed to want to remove it, either. It became a comical annoyance. Our waitress was polite but seemed slightly put out and/or annoyed.
All in all, the meal started strong but became slightly more disappointing by the course, with inconsistent service throughout.