By Linda Bladholm
The Original Big Tomato is a true mom and pop operation, with Phyllis Borenstein working the front, her husband Richard making the pizzas and 9-year-old daughter Taylor helping out when she can. The cute purple and red shop has won a devoted following for its unique, puffy crust — thicker on the sides, thinner in the center with cheese covering the crispy edges. It looks like Chicago deep-dish pie but is much lighter.
Phyllis and Richard call their creations tomato pies and base them on a pizza Richard fell in love with years ago at an Italian bakery in New York. When the place closed, he bought the recipe, which came to this country in the battered suitcase of a fourth-generation Sicilian baker. There’s also boule breads stuffed with salads, as well as rollers (wraps), panini and soup, ranging from cream of mushroom to tomato Florentine. But the main event are the pies, available with original and whole-wheat crusts and all kinds of gourmet toppings.
The most popular is tomato sauce and mozzarella. Other favorites include Baja barbecue (chicken breast in smoky barbecue sauce with red onions and and Gouda), Sweet Sunshine (sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese) Tex-Mex shrimp (with chiles, barbecue sauce, pineapple, shrimp and Gouda) and Pesto Passion (fresh pesto, chicken, onions, mozzarella and Gorgonzola). Other combos have pepperoni or sausage, but most pies here are made with chicken. They include tangy Thai with spicy peanut sauce, Jamaican jerk and Santa Fe Sensation. There are plenty of veggie options, from Vivacious Vegetarian (fresh tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers and mozzarella) to Mediterranean Magic (basil, olives, feta and other cheeses).
In Italian, tomato is pomodori or "love apple" — the perfect name for a place with a pie to love.
Original Big Tomato Gourmet Pizza, 12447 S. Dixie Hwy, Pinecrest; 305-233-3344; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon-Thurs, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri-Sat, noon-9 p.m. Sun.; pies $7.50-$11.50, wraps and panini $7.50, salads $7.75-$9.95, soup $5.95
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