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Tomatina: Santa Rosa Casual Italian Hits the Mark

Tomatina: Northern California chain does Italian right in Santa Rosa

Tomatina Italian Restaurant in Santa Rosa (courtesy photo)
Tomatina Italian Restaurant in Santa Rosa (courtesy photo)

Tomatina is exactly the kind of restaurant Santa Rosa needs right now. Not because there’s a celebrity chef or foie gras or a secret menu only hipsters know about, but because it’s just what it isgood, approachable Italian-American cuisine at reasonable prices.

Describing itself as “fresh Italian”, Tomatina’s menu takes inspiration from Italy but gives it a lighter California twist.

Tomatina Santa Rosa Italian Restaurant interior (courtesy photo)
Tomatina Santa Rosa Italian Restaurant interior (courtesy photo)

Part of a Northern California chain of restaurants around since the late 1990s, Tomatina has already worked out the menu kinks and staffing, focusing instead on a lengthy menu of modern pizzas, pasta, “piadine” (think pizza crust with a salad on top) and familiar entrees (chicken picatta, spaghetti and meatballs). The restaurant’s’ executive chef, Rogelio Jacinto is a Tra Vigne alum who creates monthly specials like pizza with roasted cauliflower, pancetta and arugula.

Taking over the former Sea Thai Bistro space in Montgomery Village (btw: Sea Thai moved over to Midway Dr.), the restaurant is light and nearly double the size, with an open kitchen, skylights and a mix of high bar tables and more typical dining tables.

White sangria at Tomatina Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa. (Heather Irwin)
White sangria at Tomatina Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa. (Heather Irwin)

Is Santa Rosa’s Tomatina perfect? No. I can make an argument that it’s not exactly local (although reps say everything is made onsite, not at a central kitchen), it can be noisy and there are plenty of kids in high chairs killing the romantic trattoria vibe. The food is tasty, but distinctly Americanized.

But is it a great place to meet up with a friend for lunch, grab a cocktail with your hubby or take the kids to dinner? Absolutely.

Wine Country is a dining destination with plenty of high-end restaurants at the luxe and of the spectrum and taquerias on the paper plate, taco-in-your face end.

Tomatina lands squarely in the restaurant desert between the two, which is exactly the kind of restaurant Santa Rosa needs right now.

Gorganzola fusili pastas from Tomatina Italian Restaurant Santa Rosa. (courtesy photo)
Fusili Gorgonzola pasta from Tomatina Italian Restaurant Santa Rosa. (courtesy photo)

What you’re here for:
Signature garlic rolls: Order more than you think you’ll need because everyone will fight over these garlicky, olive oil and Parmesan babies you can dip in their perfect marinara. Really it’s great marinara.

Fusili Gorgonzola ($14.50): An over-the-top dish with with Gorgonzola-covered pasta, fresh basil and pine nuts atop tomato-basil pasta sauce.

Calamari at Tomatina Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa. (heather irwin)
Calamari at Tomatina Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa. (heather irwin)

Steak Piadine ($13.95): Once you’ve had a piadine, you wonder why you haven’t had one before. A warm, crispy cross between flatbread and pizza crust is topped with a salad, making for a pull-apart or fold-up meal that’s light but filling. We love the marinated steak with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and ranch dressing. Simple, delightful.

Tiramisu at Tomatina Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa. (courtesy photo)
Tiramisu at Tomatina Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa. (courtesy photo)

Tiramisu ($6.95): Homemade. Enough said.

The full bar and kids menu keeps everyone happy, with a great selection of low or no-alcohol cocktails including white sangria or cranberry juice with raspberry syrup and soda.

Tomatina: 2323 Sonoma Ave. in Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa, tomatina.com. Open for lunch and dinner daily.

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Comments

18 thoughts on “Tomatina: Santa Rosa Casual Italian Hits the Mark

  1. The food was barely edible. SR needs a Tomatina like it needs a hole in its collective, municipal head. However, it may be the best microwaveable meal in Rosa.

  2. The so-called “Piadine” has been available for years since the original Tomatina, an old offshoot of Tra Vigne, in St. Helena. The old Tomatina was renamed Pizzeria Tra Vigne. Question — is this Tomatina related to the old original in St. Helena through ownership, partnership, whatever?

  3. This is a great new restaurant!
    Working previously in the restaurant biz and also working for Rosso’s down the way and having very high standards I was totally impressed!
    Went with the hubby on a Friday night with no reservation made. Waited about 15 minutes for a high top but asked the hostess/waitress if there was anything she could do to seat us somewhere else since I was very pregnant and would not be comfortable in the high chairs.
    She then went out of her way to find us a super comfy booth and had it cleaned and ready in seconds for us. While the entire time never losing her smile and great attitude (which is almost impossible to find these days)
    After we sat we had water and bread sticks within seconds and a super friendly waitress with an awesome attitude and extremely outgoing. Even though the restaurant was packed and she had a good amount of tables.
    We ordered 1 tea and 1 sangria that came right out. We also ordered an appetizer and salad which came out quickly after which was nice since I was starving and the moment we were done with each round our dirty plates were instantly picked up (which I like) our drinks were filled without waiting and our waitress checked on us and asked how each course was which is what should happen which was a breath of fresh air. I could tell she really loved what she did and really cared because it showed!
    Our entrees were yummy and filled us with enough for leftovers to take for the next day. I even ordered the tiramisu to go for later at home.
    Omg it was by far the best I’ve had anywhere hands down! Plus the portion sizes is enough for 2 if not more!
    We finished and left with having a great time and a wonderful experience.
    I would recommend this restaurant 10 fold. I’m just excited to go back again and again!

    1. Agreed, especially if she is the person who answers and then sneezes into the phone. Also, she is confused about the business hours.

  4. So wanted to love a new affordable, everyday Italian place, but. The food was mediocre at best. And it really feels like I’m eating in a restaurant at the SFO airport departure terminal. Or any airport for that matter. Weird. Can someone local please, PLEASE, open an affordable, everyday, Italian restaurant? Nothing fancy. Just simple and delicious.

    1. Trattoria Cattaneo in Bennett Valley is one of the more affordable everyday restaurants around here, locally owned. I wasn’t wowed on my one and only visit, but it was packed, and I’ve heard a lot of people rave about it.

  5. It’s too bad Santa Rosa needs another mediocre chain restaurant. It’s also troubling that “Chefs” use their past glory days to further their mediocre chain restaurants. Good Grief!

    1. It’s what people want.

      Honestly. I’d rather have this than some national chain that ships from a central warehouse in Iowa. But have you ever seen the lines at Olive Garden or Red Lobster? There are many people who clearly enjoy that kind of food.

      Fortunately Santa Rosa has plenty of great local food to compete with larger chains.

  6. Piadine. (Piadina.) People act like this is something new. Waypoint Pizza in Tiburon has been serving this forever. They call it “Between the sheets”. Nothing new here, people. Move along.

    1. You’re better off going to Rosso down the street. It’s an actual local Italian eatery, with creative menu items, seasonal changes with ingredients from real local farmers and the best wine list in town, hands down.

      1. I agree that Rosso’s is amazing. I wasn’t counting it out at ANY level. I just don’t really compare it to the Italian-American style of Tomatina. I was trying to think of something that was more apples to apples. Rosso is, well, a whole different level of awesome.

  7. Seen the signs for months when I drove by. Santa Rosa can use another family style Italian restaurant. Except for Ttrattoria Cataneo most are upscale and pricey.

  8. I didn’t think we needed another pizza/pasta joint but damn, those garlic rolls are the bomb. Everything is at least pretty good, but it’s worth a visit just for those. I could eat a whole order right now.

  9. The chef, Jacinto, was a magician with anything related to corn when he ran “Jacinto’s” in Oakmont (of all places).

    I’m hoping there’s enough wiggle room in a corporate menu to let him perform some magic when the corn is high and full.

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