Pazzo Pomodoro: Great Italian
Loudoun, I have a secret that I want to share: Pazzo Pomodoro is the real deal.
A fantastic, made-from-scratch Italian place is high on my list of must-haves but until recently, actually eating at one meant a trip back to Cleveland’s Little Italy, close to my parents. I’m picky about red sauce. Fussy about seafood. And snobbish about homemade pasta. So with healthy skepticism, I approached Pazzo Pomodoro by Ashburn’s Whole Foods, after hearing rave reviews from a similarly-affected friend.
Like meeting a blind date, first impressions are everything. From the door of Pazzo you can see through the open kitchen. A pizza crust being added to a wood-fired oven, arancini being plated with a spoonful of sauce and a cook carefully adding fish to a bubbling pan are all hopeful signs.
The pasta-making station, showcased behind a giant window like a live cooking show on a big screen TV, is another good sign.
And then I see the wine list. It’s a who’s who from Italy and California (and one of just three Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants in Loudoun) with affordable selections among the 280 bottles listed. First impression earns a thumbs up.
Our server explains that Pazzo Pomodoro is a family affair, with recipes ripped straight from the owner Jimmy Audia‘s grandmother’s cookbook. More than a dozen dishes are discussed before we order. That patient service, and clear knowledge of the food and the cooking traditions, impresses.
We start with Antipasto, a plate stacked with cured meats, homemade mozzarella, balls of creamy goat cheese and other delights served with a pignoli salad that tastes of sweet peppers and fresh herbs. It could be a meal by itself or a lovely snack shared among friends. The grilled calamari are a nice addition, topped with a lemon dressing and plated on arugula. No chewy bits here, just clean-tasting seafood.
We order the Zuppa Di Pesce Della Costiera Amalfitana. It’s served in a large bowl like soup but so full of mussels, clams, calamari, fish and shrimp in a gorgeous tomato base that you can eat with a fork. Or scoop up the goodness with a toasty piece of crostini. You won’t want to leave a drop.
Next up is a plate of pasta with the homemade marinara sauce I’ve heard so much about. Our server explains its mixed raw so the flavors develop, then cooked just before serving to keep the acid down and the flavor intact. No second-day sauce here. It’s well balanced and thick, clinging to the pasta, and leaving little behind as we clean the plate. Another winner.
We try the Agnotti Carmela, a pillow of pasta filled with spinach and ricotta and served with a white mascarpone sauce. Its decidedly not an alfredo, but even better. Rich and creamy smooth sauce without a hint of the greasiness that seems to plague white sauces served elsewhere.
The pizzas at Pazzo Pomordoro have attracted a fan base from the nearby Belmont neighborhood and its easy to see why. The crust – baked in a custom-built wood-fired oven – is both chewy and crisp. Strong enough to hold up to piles of fresh toppings but delicately thin when topped with cheese and dressed arugula. With a glass of the pizza wine – a lightly sparkling, incredibly drinkable red – this is a patio-perfect lunch or light dinner.
In fact, if you’re a wine aficionado, look into Pazzo’s wine club, for a chance to dive deeper into their list of nearly 300 wines, or reserve a spot for one of the special wine-themed dinners, often hosted by vineyard ambassadors from Italy. Pazzo Pomodoro has also won a national award for their whisky list. Surprising, but in a good way, like so many things here.
Pazzo Pomodoro is pure Amalfi Coast cooking, where simple ingredients let natural flavors sing. With cozy seating inside, a roomy enclosed patio and a larger open patio with a fireplace, Pazzo Pomodoro sets the scene for long family dinners, date night or even a quick stop to pick up food to go. I’m hooked and it’s no secret – this is great, authentic Italian. In Loudoun of all places.
Pazzo Pomodoro, 19825 Belmont Chase Drive, Ashburn VA. They are open every day for lunch starting at 11:30 a.m. and dinner service starting at 4:30 p.m.. Happy hour at 4:30-7 p.m. weeknights and Saturday from 11:30 a.m.– 4 p.m. Call 703-858-5555 or visit pazzopomodo.com. The original location is at 118 Branch Road in Vienna, VA.