This week marks the 22nd annual Festival of the Tomato at Oakland's long-running Italian spot Oliveto, and as usual, the menu looks pretty killer. If you ever wondered how you could create a sizable menu that incorporates tomatoes into every dish, including dessert, feast your eyes on this wonder. A few items that caught our eye included appetizers of fried green tomatoes with lobster remoulade and tomato and tomatillo terrine with tomato-water gelee, and pastas like pomodoro tortelli with garlic cream and lasagnette with housemade ricotta and tomato conserva. For entrees, diners have options like spit-roasted tomato-glazed hen and cioppino with local rock cod and San Marzanos. They've even managed to make tomato dessert sound weirdly appealing (remember, they're a fruit), with options like a walnut and spiced tomato ice cream bombe with brandied caramel glaze, and a Valrhona chocolate, tomato, and caramel tart with fleur de sel. Oh, and did we mention the warm tomato jelly doughnuts?
Oliveto traditionally holds its tomato dinners in August, but due to a slightly weird growing season with a late spike in hot weather, they've pushed the dinners back to September, in order to coincide with the greatest level of tomato availability. Apparently, chef Jonah Rhodehamel and his team taste every tomato and judge them on their size, flavor, color, and acidity before assigning them to a dish-- they even opened their tomato tasting to the public this year, though we didn't get to attend.
Reservations for the tomato dinners are available on OpenTable or via phone at (510) 547-5356. They haven't posted prices for the tomato meals yet, but the regular menu runs $9-16 for appetizers, $16-17 for pastas, and $24-31 for entrees. If you've never been, it's right around the corner from the Rockridge BART station, making it a snap to take the train and subsequently overdo it on the wine.