Tucked away in an unassuming strip mall in Vienna, VA, Pazzo Pomodoro is a delightful combination of a family-friendly neighborhood restaurant and fine Italian dining you’ll want to return to again and again. It is an ideal choice for either dinner with the kids or a romantic evening on the town.
Pazzo Pomodoro, owned by Jimmy Audia and Bill Hicks, is a Cantina-style concept, offering a Neapolitan-inspired menu of made-from-scratch dishes that represent traditional cuisine and pay homage to memories of Campania and Sicily. The dishes are typical to the working class neighborhoods of Napoli, Salerno, Capri, the dozens of small villages along the Amalfi Coast, and the diverse island of Sicily.
You’ll notice the enticing aromas and the warm welcome as soon as you step inside. There are several dining areas, each featuring red-and-white checkered tablecloth settings, stone walls and colorful depictions of the Old Country, where dining groups can be spaced safely apart. As an added attraction, the open concept kitchen allows you to watch the chefs in action as they prepare your dishes. Note the massive blue wood-fired pizza oven.
A large bar area at the rear of the restaurant doubles as a wine cellar, as well as offers additional seating. Note the clever way that wine bottles are incorporated into the ceiling storage bins. Pazzo Pomodoro features more than 390 wines, with many available by the glass. Ten tap beers that change on a regular basis are also available, along with bottled beer.
Pazzo Pomodoro has been awarded five Wine Spectator Awards, including Awards of Excellence in 2017, 2018 and 2020. Sign up for a Wine Tasting where you can sample five wines, along with munchies. Or attend a monthly Wine Dinner to enjoy a five-course meal and five wines.
Start your meal with one of the appealing salads. We tried the Insalata di Bietole, a light, bright salad composed of two types of beets served with goat cheese and peppery baby arugula, drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette and topped with shaved Parmesan. According to owner Jimmy Audia, “It was my mother’s favorite.”
From there, a couple of hearty appetizers made their way onto our table, and into our stomachs. Although I’m not usually a fan of calamari, I could be converted by the Calamari Fritto o alla Griglia. These lightly-breaded bites were a delight dipped in the spicy tomato sauce that accompanied them. I chose the Polpette di Ricotta, a bowl of Sicilian-style meatballs covered with a tangy sauce and ricotta cheese and garnished with fresh microgreens. Although the menu says they are small, they are hearty enough to be quite filling.
What adds to the experience of dining here is the food’s presentation. Each plate is an Instagram-worthy work of art as well as a taste sensation. The ingredients are fresh and locally-sourced; many of the herbs and vegetables come from Audia’s organic family garden in Waterford, VA. And the pasta is always homemade. Patron favorites include the Lasagna alla Partenopea, Involtini di Vitello and the Piccata di Vitello (both Veal); and the Gamberoni al Salmoriglio (Jumbo Shrimp).
Chef Juan Bonilla outdid himself with the Agnello in Crosta di Pistacchio we ordered, translated to Sicilian lamb chops crusted with pistachios and served with a Madeira wine reduction. Grilled to medium, the meat was tender and flavorful, and the crisp roasted vegetables and sprigs of rosemary added to both the presentation and the taste.
The regular menu is large, but don’t overlook the Specials menu that changes weekly according to what is fresh and in season. We ordered the Branzino and were delighted with the tableside presentation as our server Jerry Jrab filleted the Whole Grilled Mediterranean Rockfish before our eyes and accented it with a bright green Salmoriglio Sauce before serving it with roasted potato wedges and vegetables. It all paired perfectly with the Torri Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2015 wine he suggested.
The 6,000-pound pizza oven was hand built in Naples, Italy by Stefano Ferrar, a renowned third-generation artisan, and creates the most appetizing array of 12” pizzas in a flash. The classic Margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil, the Ducati, and the Anema e Core are popular choices. Gluten-free crust is available upon request.
Save Room for Dessert
A separate dessert menu offers a variety of tempting options including the house specialty Baci di Sofia Loren, or petite chocolate cups filled with Zabaione and fresh berries, a classic Tiramisu or Cannoli, and a Torta di Limone con Amaretti, or lemon cheesecake soufflé with Amaretti cookies, among them. There’s usually a dessert or two on the Specials menu as well.
Indoor seating is currently limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, but in March, the restaurant opens its outdoor dining tent to add 40 additional seats. Private dining is available in the Vienna restaurant’s Capri Room for up to 35 guests. A second Pazzo Pomodoro restaurant is located in Ashburn, VA.
The name Pazzo Pomodoro translates to “crazy tomato,” but the only thing crazy about this restaurant was that it is crazy good! For high-quality meals at affordable prices, visit either location.
All Photos Credit: Linda Barrett
Pazzo Pomodoro Vienna
118 Branch Rd. SE
Vienna, VA 22180
Pazzo Pomodoro Ashburn
19825 Belmont Chase Dr.
Ashburn, VA 20147