Picture this, if you will; you’re driving south through the outskirts of Turin after a hard morning of – I don’t know – recreating the robbery from The Italian Job but on Segways, it’s now nearly two in the afternoon, you haven’t eaten since that fette biscottate you had for breakfast with your espresso and you’re not due to make it to Florence until midnight at the earliest.
You’re peckish, so you decide find somewhere for lunch. The only place open you spot on your route is a slightly care-worn roadside diner but you pull in and (quite unexpectedly) enjoy one of the best, cheapest and most satisfying meals you’ve ever eaten. This is because the best “common” Italian food is simple, tasty and relies on great local ingredients and the skill of the chef.
Whether the scene outlined above is a common occurrence in your life or not (although I’m sure it is), you can now enjoy a similar culinary experience bang in the middle of sunny Scarbados.
Pomodoro is a marvellous Italian restaurant opened by partners Barbara Hope and Alessandro Borzone in 2013 in a converted T-shirt shop on Newborough. It will not be to everyone’s taste as the décor, tables and general feel of the place will give the easily dissuaded an excuse to dislike it from the off. Anyone who knows anything about Italian food, though, will see past the perfunctory surroundings and revel in some fantastic, authentic Northern Italian cuisine.
I’ll admit that I was initially unsure that Pomodoro would impress. On entry it is hot, slightly uncomfortable and (we were told) you have to bring your own wine. We arrived with a bottle of supermarket red and soon found that the bring-your-own thing is a myth derived from a brief license-less period in the early days. Once in, we were escorted to our table and served by a genius of a waiter called Clive. Clive is my favourite kind of staff – dry, mouthy, cheeky, confident, fast, thorough and knowledgeable. He took us through the menu and specials with wit and erudition and made superb recommendations. Every restaurant should have a Clive. He was the first sign that the night was on the up.
The second sign was the starters. Aside from some fantastic olives, we had bresaola rucola and parmigiano which is, admittedly, simply some ingredients arranged on a plate, but they were arranged very effectively and with great balance. My starter was an absolute cracker. The best mozzarella I’ve ever eaten was hand-made in a little side-street trattoria in Rome’s Trastevere district. I devoured one every morning of a week-long holiday in 2014 and could have happily done it for the rest of my life. The burrata caprese served at Pomodoro ran it a close second. Served with lush tomatoes, dried herbs, olive oil and a pesto-like basil oil, it took me right back to those sunny Roman mornings.
Before mains I should explain that Barbara runs front-of-house (very well, as it goes) and Alessandro is the chef. He hails from Piedmont and got to love Scarborough (and Barbara) while on a break from his family’s restaurant back in Italy. When that closed, he and Barbara drove a wagon crammed with all the kitchen equipment right across Europe to North Yorkshire. It’s credit to his skill that he manages to cook a full menu in a kitchen no bigger than a snooker table.
For mains I had saltimbocca, an Italian staple which is surprisingly easy to get wrong. Alessandro didn’t. He gave it a couple of twists (such as sage served dried and chopped) but the meat was perfectly cooked and the whole dish was suitably moist and salty.
Better, across the table, was lobster tagliatelle, which was vibrant and amazing value at £14.99. The succulent lobster comes straight from the harbour and illustrates Alessandro’s commitment to great ingredients. The dish also featured a couple of enormous spears of early season asparagus, which I refused to believe were British until Clive dug out the label to prove it.
Accompanying was a Mediterranean salad. It would be easy to toss a few leaves of iceberg, some watery polytunnel tomatoes and raw red onion on a dish and call it a salad, but here (for £4.49!) was a plate consisting eight different piles of eight distinct salads. It truly is going above and beyond to bother making portions of celery, cheese and walnut; radicchio, parmesan and walnut; cabbage and garlic; roast peppers, courgette and garlic; potato, fagioli beans and... no, wait. I won’t go through every one. Just be assured that you won’t find a fresher, better-made salad anywhere in Europe for under a fiver. I guarantee it.
And how to finish this utter surprise of a meal? With a divine plate of mini cannoli and – wonder of wonders – a strawberry meringue made in Alessandro’s pizza oven which is so large, so light, so crispy that you find yourself wondering if it’s possible to survive on meringue alone.
We spent around £60 at Pomodoro (excluding the wine we mistakenly brought) which is an absurdly low price for the quality of food. They’re opening a gelateria soon. I’m betting that will be a winner too, when people are this good with food it’s bound to be.
• Pomodoro, 24-25 Newborough, Scarborough YO11 1NA. 01723 507336. Open daily, 11am to 9pm.