September 2, 2014
Oct 4, 2012
02:54 PM

First Look: The Crazy Tomato, a traditional Italian trattoria in East York

Owners Nunzio Mele (L) and Michael Ciciarelli (Images: Meri Perra)

The thing with extended family is, you always know of them but you don’t always know them. At The Crazy Tomato, a new Italian restaurant that’s taken over the old Kitty Oshea Irish Alehouse at St. Clair and O’Connor, owners Michael Ciciarelli and Nunzio Mele are cousins who always knew of each other, but hadn’t had the chance to get to know each other until recently.

Mele started a plumbing business at 21, with a backburner goal of one day opening a restaurant. Business boomed, and 20 years, a marriage and two kids later, he was feeling antsy. The time for a restaurant was either now or never.

Enter Ciciarelli. At a family function, Mele found his cousin, 20 years his junior, all grown up, and a professional chef to boot. He learned that Ciciarelli had dreamed of opening a restaurant since he was seven years old. The two connected, and decided to go into business. The Crazy Tomato was born.

Seafood linguine, $19

The family connection fits with the theme of the restaurant.

“We are a very family, homey-style, trattoria-based restaurant,” says Ciciarelli, who has worked at restaurants such as Oro and Carisma.

The cousins built and designed the restaurant on their own, dedicating four months to the project. Mele’s background in construction helped.

The result is a comfortable and airy restaurant, with a wood-burning stove in the back and an impressive wooden harvest table at the centre to accommodate large groups.

“We wanted to have a nice family table in the middle of our dining area. It’s just a different feeling sitting around a harvest table as opposed to putting tables together,” Mele says.

Popular dishes include the seafood linguine ($19), which is topped with white wine tomato sauce. The linguine is made in-house, along with other pastas such as gnocchi and pappardelle. It comes with a massive helping of shrimps, scallops and mussels.

The Crazy Porchetta ($13, pictured below) is the restaurant’s deconstructed take on a traditional porchetta, with pork tenderloin, pancetta and sides of mashed potato, carrots, peppers and seasonal vegetables.

“We built the place ourselves,” Mele says. “It’s a passion we’re delivering on a daily basis.”

The Crazy Tomato, 2714 St. Clair Avenue E., 416-755-2020

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