Friday, December 2, 2011

Bar Toma

In one of the gazillion media pieces about Bar Toma, a representative was quoted as saying that the pizza is not Neapolitan style. Instead, the Bar Toma rep said, it’s “Bar Toma style,” which he or she explained was based on some life changing pizza that their research team had in Rome. Or something like that. Whatever they want to call it, toppings aside Bar Toma’s pizza is much closer to what one might find at a mid-scale Italian restaurant in Tulsa than anything I ever had in Italy. Though some of the toppings might challenge your average Oklahoman tourist, if she stays with something that sounds familiar she’ll be pleased with the recognizably bready, structurally homogenous and boring pizza she’s had for much of her life. I chose the bianco, which has lardo, rosemary and way too much of some kind of grating cheese that was applied before baking and therefore came out with a chalky, dry texture and sharp, salty taste that distracted from the luscious and mild lardo.

Trippa alla napoletana was OK, but while my favorite versions have a relatively even balance of sauce to tripe, this one was basically a giant bowl of good tomato sauce with a scant scattering of relatively tender, mild tripe. Inoffensive but not very interesting.

Silky and intense lemon sorbetto was the best thing I tasted, followed closely by a “Spreetz” unlike any Spritz I had on my relatively recent trip to Venice. Bar Toma’s was more balanced, without the over-the-top bitterness that overwhelmed all of the versions I had there. It was served in a wine glass, which I found odd.

I suppose one should evaluate Bar Toma on its own merits and in doing so it’s probably a good place. It’s better than that if you compare it to most options in the immediate vicinity. But I couldn’t help but compare Bar Toma with the pioneer of real food on the Mag Mile - The Purple Pig, In the end I couldn’t help but conclude that Bar Toma is playing it safer, and I’d strongly recommend the Bannos’ joint over Mantuano’s.


  1. I believe Mantuano is involved with Purple Pig as well.

  2. Hi Bruno - yes, good point. I had forgotten that. Though his role definitely seems more distant at the PP.

  3. (This is Onur)

    I was surprised for a long time at the quality of the food at PP given that the owners were from Heaven on Seven and Mia Francesca's, both restaurants I don't particularly like. When I learned Mantuano was involved, it made more sense to me. Honestly, I don't know who the driving influence is at PP, but I think the food far exceeds anything being served at Heaven on Seven or Mia Francesca's.

  4. From what I've seen on many visits to the PP, Jimmy Bannos Jr. is definitely in charge of that kitchen. Re. Scott Harris, man is very good at knowing what will sell. Used to be Mia F, now it's places like PP and D'Avanti, both of which are really good.

  5. I listened to Mantuano describe the pizza crust* (a little rye and regular flour, two day retardation, oven is probably around 900F, pizzaiolo raises it to top at end, etc.) so was disappointed that after seemingly doing everything right, the crust had relatively little character. That said, I really liked all the toppings, especially the kale one where they let the kale burn a little in the oven. The cheese was maybe too heavy on the clam one but, take it from a Wichitan, there's nothing about what's on a pizza like that that would remind a Tulsan of home.

    But the best thing by far that we had at the tasting, the one that was genuinely great, was the sampler of mozzarellas and cheeses (and a little charcuterie thrown in). Supre-fresh, rich, delicate, magical. That was what lifted it above "this is really good for touristville" to "this is really good, period." That said, it will probably be one of the least-sampled parts of the menu, because people in America don't think of a ball of mozzarella simply dressed as a meal, or even a dish.

    Frankly, the first time I ate at Purple Pig I thought they were posers. It wasn't until at least the second time that I really believed they could be one of the best spots in town (and I still don't think they're a great charcuterie maker, but make it up elsewhere on the menu). If Bar Toma can start where it starts and follow that path, I have great hopes for it, especially after walking in thinking "Tony Mantuano's Foodlife."

    * It's apparently modeled on this place by the way:

  6. Thanks for the link to the thing on the Rome place. It does sound like they tried really hard with the crust, and maybe they're truly happy with what they got, but I thought it was really uninteresting. Like a piece of Artisan brand focaccia at Dominick's. But yes, good for them for offering a more interesting array of toppings. Maybe I'll get a cheese ball sometime, but I dunno... I don't a kitchen to do too much work with a good product, but that just feels a little too much like the Bistronomic can of sardines.

  7. I hear what you're saying about simplicity reaching the point of hardly contributing yourself at all, but if it was really that easy, it wouldn't taste like such a surprise when it turns out to be as good as it was.

    Oh, I thought of one other thing I really liked-- the housecured olives were very good.