The pizza game has gotten serious in Buffalo. Places dedicated to the daintier brick-oven, wood-fired, artisanal styles – the $15 pizzas for one – have mushroomed, challenging the supremacy of the familiar old Buffalo pie.
In their worship of the thin-crust, heat-blistered pizzas of the Neapolitan and related styles, their fans can get a little snobby.
“Do you use double-zero Caputo flour, bro? Do you even know what that is?” I have cast my share of shade on the weaker forms of traditional Buffalo pizza.
But sometimes all I want is a fat slice that would avalanche toppings if you tried to fold it. When that’s the dish you want at the center of a family night out, consider My Tomato Pie. You won’t get a spray of fresh arugula on your pie, but you’ll get a pizza that feeds a family.
Owned by the Scioli family, My Tomato Pie served Tonawanda and environs from the Northtown Plaza for almost 18 years. When it became one of the businesses displaced by the plaza’s new owners, it headed north to Niagara Falls Boulevard at Robinson Road.
The new space is larger, with a high-ceilinged sports bar setup that signals its past as a Buffalo Wild Wings. (Fewer widescreen televisions, though.) There’s also a banquet room for hosting private events.
Besides pizza in various forms, the menu offers salads, pastas and other Italian-American entrees, like chicken cacciatore ($15) and eggplant Parmesan ($14). There’s also burgers from the My Burger Bar restaurant, another former Northtown Plaza Scioli place.
From a short list of appetizers, I asked for stuffed hot peppers ($10). Peppers tender enough to cut through without squeezing out all the filling; check. Rich, creamy filling of sausage and cheeses; check. Reminder that there is no way to guarantee where the spiciness of individual specimens will fall on the scale from warming to painful: checkmate. The first bite hurt. I took a second bite because the flavor was spot-on otherwise, and ate the soft caramelized garlic cloves that had sauteed the peppers.
Pizza bread ($9), described as a pizza crust baked with only Romano cheese and spices, was a minor revelation. The cheese treatment gave the bread a crackly golden brown crust that was plenty savory to eat by itself. But it was even better dunked into the grassy basil pesto and tomato sauce that came alongside.
Since it arrived at the table relatively swiftly, it has extra value as means to shut up people who are cranky because they’re hungry.
Antoinette’s chopped salad ($12) packed plenty of protein for dinner-salad seekers. Field mix was tumbled with enhancements chopped into easily forkable form: artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, salami, prosciutto, hardboiled eggs and red onion.
A Caesar salad ($8) was decent, with garlicky dressing and crisp housemade croutons. A basket of sweet potato fries ($7) with honey-cinnamon dip brought forgettable, limp fries.
When the pizzas arrived, the quiet dining room got even quieter.
The Carissa ($22) was a white pizza with a Mexican bent, sporting grilled chicken, jalapenos, tomato salsa, with cheddar, jack and mozzarella cheeses. Cubed chicken made it more likable than the ground beef more standard for Mexican pizzas, and it wasn’t spicy despite the fresh jalapenos. A ramekin of sour cream boosts the taco parallels.
Like My Tomato Pie’s other pizzas, the crust was on the fresher end of Buffalo style, thick but puffy-crunchy enough to merit devouring.
The Hawaiian ($21) had plenty of ham and canned pineapple bits submerged in brown mozzarella. Fruit sweetness, tomato tang and porky saltiness accomplished hit the classic Hawaiian mark. My favorite was the Lucca ($21), with bronzed meatball chunks and medium-spicy pepper rings whose bite was smoothed out by creamy ricotta hidden under the mozzarella.
A steak sandwich ($11.99) delivered, with an 8-ounce cut of sirloin cooked to a pink medium rare, topped with sautéed onions and melted mozzarella on an Italian-bread-like roll that soaked up the drippings.
After delivering a round of waters and forgetting straws, our server returned and tossed them on the table without slowing down, hurrying away in the mostly empty restaurant. Asked about an ordered sausage calzone that did not appear, she apologized and scooted away to get it started.
The calzone ($11) was moderate-sized, not a ricotta-stuffed blimp. Its filling of sausage, sweet peppers and sautéed onions inside another light, well-browned crust made for good eating dipped in the proffered tomato sauce. (It was swell reheated the next day, too.)
Desserts ($6) started with an apple crisp that wasn’t. It had a soft attempted streusel on chewy apples in a floury sauce. The flourless chocolate cake was better, ably checking chocolate cravings with bites that melted like fudgy butter. The consensus champion was housemade peanut butter pie, with robust salty nuttiness and a graham cracker crust.
My Tomato Pie is a competent family restaurant whose successes extend beyond its concentration in Buffalo-style pizza. It’s always a pleasure to find a place that’s adept at more than one kind of pie.
My Tomato Pie - 7 plates (out of 10)
Family friendly menu follows restaurant to new Amherst location.
Where: 3035 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst (260-1043)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Price range: Starters $7-$10; sandwiches, calzones $9-$15; entrees $8-$16; pizzas $5-$23.
Wheelchair access: Yes