Usually when a restaurant closes, we're left twiddling our thumbs looking for something to fill the void of our rumbling stomachs. For the most part, internet research will lead you to an eatery reminiscent of the one you used to love, but restaurants are like snow flakes, no two will satiate patrons alike.
Which is why it felt like Christmas morning when Piero Menegazzi wiped off the cobwebs and reopened the doors of his Italian restaurant. With babies crawling on the floor, and the wafts of homemade pizza dough in the air, Pomodoro's is finally back.
Closing in 2008 after ending a marriage with his wife of over 20 years, Menegazzi abandoned the eatery not because of financial problems but stress. Originally opened in 1989, it was especially hard for the chef because it had always been his dream to open an Italian restaurant, not close one.
An Italian who crossed the Atlantic for love when he was 21, Menegazzi would eventually return to his hometown near Milan to apprentice under the idolized chefs of his childhood. Figuring out the logistics of his culinary career, Menegazzi first thought he wanted to open an Italian bakery (which is how he learned the art of baking artisanal bread now used in the pizza crust). Upon returning to the states, he realized it was pizza that he wanted to cook, and other classic Italian dishes.
Starting off as a lunch-only café, Pomodoro's only served pizza and small plates. Over time Menegazzi would hone in on his craft and experiment with more recipes. His potato-crusted yellowtail snapper and the margherita pizza are customer must-haves.
"My pizza is thin, crispy," Menegazzi points out. "Not Napolitan pizza, more from up north, more of my idea of how it should taste; very thin, crispy, and light."
Everything in the restaurant is made from scratch. His focus is on gathering the freshest local ingredients possible and he orders from a nearby farm and fish market. Over the last 24 years, he garnered a loyal following of customers. When he closed the restaurant four years ago, most patrons were distraught.
When they heard he was working as a chef at D'Angelo's many followed him, and would veer off the menu, requesting some of Menegazzi's specialties that they missed so much.
Angela has been eating Pomodoros once a week with her husband Bill since 1992. "We are so grateful he came back. It's the best food. We were lost those four years without him."
Reopening the restaurant in September of last year, Menegazzi bubbles with joy under a hard shell of professionalism. He cracks a smile when he explains the second half of 2012. "It was a busy time," Menegazzi recollects. "But I'm a romantic. I [remarried] in November and [my first daughter] Vittoria was born in December."
Menegazzi's wife Colleen shakes her head in disbelief. "Wow, you really don't notice how it all comes together until you sit and talk about it," Colleen says balancing her eight month old daughter on her lap. "We really are so blessed and so happy. Piero can be so humble and modest about it, but I know he's happy and just loves Vittoria. She looks just like him don't you think?"
With only 10 burners on the stove, and the help of a few neighborhood kitchen hands, Meneggazzi is a one-man show running a restaurant that can feed 56 people at one time. From meticulously compiling the wine menu to garnishing desserts with dollops of cream, Menegazzi is hands-on and doesn't want it any other way. "I wanted my restaurant to be my child, my dream," Menegazzi explains. "My spirit goes into everything I do here. I've worked very hard to make it last [over] 20 years."
Pomodoro's is located on 2908 East Commercial Blvd in Oakland Park. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. Call 954-512-8298.