Sometimes you never know the wonders in your own neighborhood, and you can live in a place for years before you discover them. My wife and I were neighbors for two years — me living with one of my good friends and her living with her parents, five minutes away — before we met on OKCupid. And in our very neighborhood was a pizzeria I’ve been driving past for over 15 years, that we finally took a chance on trying in recent weeks. It turned out to be another pleasant surprise moments from our driveway. This is Tomasino’s New York Pizzeria (http://www.tomasinospizza.com/), with three locations in Orlando (along East Colonial between Primrose and Bumby, in the “Milk District”), Winter Springs (near us), and Lake Mary (I never go up there, so I have no idea what it’s near).
For our first visit, we decided to dine in, because pizza is always better hot and fresh out of the oven. The Winter Park Tomasino’s is a very small space, but we are early birds whenever possible and got seated immediately. Later on, as you will find out, they get slammed. We started out with an order of fresh-baked garlicky cheese knots ($3.99), drenched in thick, melty garlic butter, dusted with Romano cheese, and served with the most delicious marinara sauce for dipping. Deez knots were very soft and fluffy, which we always like. Sometimes garlic knots can be too dense and chewy, like little softballs, but not these!
This was the 14″ Arthur Avenue-style pizza ($18.99), named after the famous old street of Italian restaurants, delis, and grocery stores in the Bronx. This pizza sounded perfect for me, topped with spicy soppressata salami, caramelized onions, and goat cheese — these are a few of my favorite things! They finish it off with a drizzle of their “spicy marinade” that definitely contains crushed red pepper, that pizzeria tabletop standard. However, I couldn’t shake the fact (no pun intended) that it tasted like the Frank’s Red Hot sauce you put on Buffalo-style hot wings.
Here’s a slice of the Arthur Avenue pie. I love vinegar and spice, but I’m not the biggest fan of hot Buffalo wings, and that was the overwhelming flavor on this particular pizza, due to that “spicy marinade.” I would have tried it no matter what, but next time I’ll just stick to plain cheese or splurge on meatballs, onions, and peppers as toppings.
My wife opted for two slices: a Don Tomasino slice ($4) and a regular cheese slice ($2.50), both cut from larger 18″ pizzas. The Don Tomasino is their regular bianca pizza (mozzarella, ricotta, parmigiana and fresh garlic, with no red sauce), topped with thin-sliced breaded eggplant, spinach, fresh tomatoes, and drizzled with their “special pink sauce” (like a vodka sauce).
She didn’t even come close to finishing these, but as usual, I greatly preferred the crispy texture of these large slices to my 14″ pie. When I return (AND I DID), I’m going to stick to slices, like I usually do at my other local favorite pizzerias Del Dio and Paradiso.
We shared a slice of strawberry cheesecake for dessert, since Tomasino’s gets cheesecake from the legendary Junior’s restaurant in Brooklyn. This past summer, my wife and I went to New York and ate at two different Junior’s locations in the theater district. I argue Junior’s bakes the best cheesecake anywhere — far better than your jiggly Japanese cheesecakes, the Publix bakery, and especially the Cheesecake Factory. It’s nice to know we can get Junior’s slices at Pickles Deli in Longwood as well.
More recently, I brought home takeout from Tomasino’s, so we had a second round of trying stuff.
We got the garlicky cheese knots again:
My wife got another slices of the Don Tomasino pizza:
I got my own slice of plain cheese this time (topped with her tomatoes that I dutifully plucked off the Don Tomasino, since she doesn’t like raw tomatoes:
And a very good meatball sub ($7.99), with onions and peppers added. Don’t worry, I only ate a few bites after two knots and the slice of pizza. It heated up perfectly well in the toaster oven the next day.
And for dessert, my wife wanted to try the chocolate mousse, which was very rich. She barely made it through half of the decadent domelike dessert, and I only had a few bites, so she had plenty left to enjoy the next day.
A cross-section, showing the layers of lusciousness:
But I placed this pickup order on a Friday evening, just before leaving work at 6:00, and let me tell you, Tomasino’s was a standing room only crowd by the time I got there. The only thing harder than getting a table was getting a parking space, especially with the even larger and busier Gators Dockside restaurant next door. So keep in mind Tomasino’s delivers too, for peak times like that. But also keep in mind that our pizza slices were cold by the time I got home, ten minutes away. Pizza — especially thin and crispy New York-style slices like they serve here — is always better eaten at the restaurant, hot and fresh out of the oven, like I warned at the beginning of this review. We knew better, but don’t get me wrong — the food was still good. I’m glad we finally gave our friendly neighborhood Tomasino’s a chance, and after two visits, we have every intention of becoming regulars.