There is a lot to be said for warmth and generosity of spirit. It kind of seems like a somewhat needless thing to point out, but genuine passion for making customers feel welcome and genuinely valued is not something that you see everywhere. At The Messy Tomato though, this is all just part of the service.
I know we have said this before, but I really do feel like we need to find a surrogate Italian family to take us in. The generosity of spirit, the genuine welcoming and the wanting – bordering on needing – to give and to share is something wondrous to be around. I mean sure, there may be the downsides to this potential arrangement. We would have to follow ‘proper football’ above all else, and worship the national team like a deity (despite their propensity to a) fall over and writhe around in pain an awful lot, and b) not make the world cup). We would also all live in the same street, or if not at least the same suburb, and we would need to become accustomed to regular visitors just dropping by unannounced. I would also have to get used to kissing other men (on both cheeks) and I would now be rendered completely silent by keeping my hands in my pockets.
But really, these are minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things.
Cultural stereotypes aside, one visit to The Messy Tomato, being introduced to Tony and the ensuing conversations, and also becoming acquainted with their delicious food – and you will suddenly be saying “ciao bella” to your new chosen life.
To give the back story, Luigi’s had out grown their space, and so headed off to a new location. Not wanting to miss the opportunity, Tony (business partner and long time friend of Luigi) decided to take this over. The name The Messy Tomato was chosen, new letterheads and signage printed, and business continued on.
What this means is pasta made fresh daily, consisting essentially of spaghetti and gnocchi. This is then paired with a small number of sauce options, a soup of the day and some salads, and you have their core business there. What this doesn’t describe of course is just how delicious this all is. Seriously, trying to choose a favourite from those that I got to try was like choosing a favourite child.
Of the pastas, these will change regularly depending on what is seasonal and chef wants to make, however there will be some consistent options. The chilli crab is likely to be a regular, and I can report that the balance between the tomato sauce base, the hum of the chilli and the sweetness of the crab was absolutely nailed. The vegetarian ragu was brilliant too, with eggplant, zucchini, olives and basil teaming up with likely other friends (I neglected to ask!) to give you a fantastic meat free option.
Extra special mention has to go to the porchini gnocchi, as this had even my non-gnocchi loving wife raving about it! The depth of flavour in that sauce was spectacular, and the pillows of gnocchi were on point. Then you had the soup, which was a potato, leek and broccoli number with basil, olive oil and some parmesan to finish it off. A bowl of this with some of their garlic bread, and I am in a very happy place.
The Messy Tomato also do other things, such as salads, bruschetta, panini and antipasto for lunch, as well as some sensational breakfast platters. The coffee is great too – you should definitely head here for some caffeine intake!
However what makes this all super special (technical term) is the people. You could see the interactions with all the patrons were genuine – and always aimed at giving the best possible experience. Nothing over the top mind you, just people being friendly, personable and offering more than just some food for lunch.
The space itself is quite small, and you do have office staff coming and going in the background, yet The Messy Tomato still seems like a homely little oasis amongst it all. There is plenty of seating outside, however on this day the council decided lunch time would be the ideal moment to begin mulching tree limbs directly across the road…
All told, I have nothing but high praise for The Messy Tomato. If you are in the market for delicious Italian food and true hospitality, then Tony and his crew can well and truly accommodate.