VERO BEACH – Italian food as we know it, has roots that can be traced as far back as the 4th-century bc. The tomato or “Pomodoro” in Italian, was not commonly used until the late 18th century. Which means Italian cuisine existed for about 2000 years before they even developed tomato sauce. That… is a tragedy.
Being influenced by many neighboring cultures like Greek, Arab, Germanic, French and Austrian, can explain its abundance of tastes, styles and its influence on many other cuisines. Italian food is one of the most popular and copied cuisines in the world. Its most significant impact was on the United States and what is now American food.
The first known Italian food writer was a Sicilian and Greek poet named Archestratus. He wrote many poems that spoke of using “Top quality and seasonal ingredients.” Italians are known for this such practice and can define the regional variations from the North to Central and the South. Pomodoro Grill does not claim fame to just one particular region but believes that “Italy as a Gastronomic nation has too much to offer for us to be particular to one region alone.” And they stay true to the Italian tradition saying “La Cucina is a random find of deliciously treasured recipes rarely written down, but instead passed down from one generation to the next and modified according to available produce and enhanced by knowing hands.”
Pomodoro Grill in Vero Beach is tucked into the semi-bustling beachside village just a block west of Ocean Drive. Its a place you might find riding your Vespa down a narrow and crooked cobblestone paved “Vicoli” in Naples. Since 1995, Pomodoro has been sharing its family recipes from Italy with Vero Beach, but the tradition didn’t start only then.
Owner Peppy Amelio immigrated from Afragola Naples in the early ’70s and first owned pizzerias on the Jersey Shore. After deciding he didn’t like the cold, he joined forces with brother-in-law Carlo DeChellis in 1972 at his Pizza Queen pizzeria on US1 which is now Sunshine Furniture. After many years at Pizza Queen, Peppy moved to Melbourne where he opens several restaurants but ended up back in Vero to open Pomodoro Grill. The family tree doesn’t stop there. Along with Peppy, his brother Dominick “Mimmo” also settled in Vero and after a few ventures eventually opened Mimmo’s Scampi grill in 2000.
Now, both with grown children, they have passed the torch on to the younger generation. Mimmo’s son Alex Amelio is head chef at the new location of Scampi Grill. Peppy’s older son Mario once a chef at Pomodoro and daughter Nina, opened Johnny D’s Market and Bistro on A1A. And now his son Amedeo Amelio is head chef and the new face of Pomodoro Grill.
Amedeo living most of his life here in Vero and a Vero Beach High school graduate learned just about everything about cooking and the family business from his well-versed father and older brother Mario. He is no novice in the world of Italian cooking and has been honing his craft in the kitchen of Pomodoro since 2005.
With a reservation for four, I visited the Vero Beach restaurant with friends and family in for a visit. We were seated inside at a round table covered in white linen and near a window with long sheer curtains. The walls were lined with oil paintings, and the feel was elegant and polished. We were greeted immediately by a very professional young lady in black. She was helpful and knew the menu well.
We started the meal with an Antipasto. Great for sharing it came with fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced prosciutto, soppressata, and a spoon full of roasted peppers and olives. These are indeed “Top quality and seasonal ingredients.” Also, each table is greeted with a plate of freshly baked garlic knots. Warm and dusted with parmesan and fresh garlic, these housemade treats are a great way to start any meal.
I chose the Penne Oscar (see main photo above) with a lobster cream sauce and fired roasted red pepper puree, this dish is brimming with jumbo shrimp, sea scallops and blue crab meat. The penne is cooked just right, al dente, and the flavor is well balanced with notes of fresh garlic and basil. This dish is my second favorite for the night with the dessert at the top of the chart.
Another choice we made was the Gam Imperial. This simple dish starts with enormous sautéed jumbo shrimp on top of angel hair pasta in a sherry cream sauce, sautéed spinach, fresh garlic, minced shallot and of course Romano cheese. It is such a simple combination and encompasses authentic Italian cuisine. Relying on a few fresh ingredients and allowing them to show through in the dish.
The third dish at our table was the Zuppa Di Pesce Fra Di Avolo. Piled high with select seafood this dish is a classic and Pomodoro’s rendition was prepared very well. Amedeo keeps the heat down on this one out of the box but can turn it up on demand.
For our final entree, the Veal Scallopini Piccata, are beautiful tender veal cutlets, with white wine, lemon and capers make this one of my go-to picks.
Last but not least, their famous house-made Tiramisu for dessert was layered and presented in a crystal wine glass. It was delicate and fluffy with mascarpone made in heaven; the experience is transcendent. When you visit, order dessert first, its the newest diet fad. 😉
Chef Amedeo uses each of the four essential elements of cooking, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat and does it very well. He certainly has the “Knowing hands.”
Also, the menu does change at times, and Pomodoro Grill does offer something like a Sunset Menu with specials.