The finest touch of elegant Italian flair, right in the gateway to Magic City
words and photos by Ali Burden
While I can’t rightly throw Tomaso’s Italian Villa into the ring for the Akron Pizza Task Force, as it’s settled right on the outskirts of Barberton and outside the limits of eligibility, I would be wildly wasted as a writer if I never gave it a moment in print. Tucked away on Barber road, between the ever-sprawling Fred Martin car lot and small roadside businesses, one might not even know this one-of-a-kind Italian wonderland was even there.
So here we are, standing in the lot, looking up at the brown wood-paneled exterior of their unique Sky Room and front double doors. Inside, round windows, string lights and grapes hanging from ceiling trellises create a certain feel, as does the wall decal above my favorite booth. Six words from the film to end all films: “leave the gun; take the cannoli.” Floating gently through the air, the voices of the world’s greatest crooners—Buble, Sinatra, the perfect backdrop for a late lunch.
I have never once used a Tomaso’s menu, nor would I even be able to describe one. Tomaso’s is the kind of place where earlier generations passed on favorite dishes, both the Thomas family recipe book, and our usuals around the table. Every single time, Dad got the small antipasto—a mound of crisp lettuce, pepperoni, cheese and olives, topped off with a tiny green pepper and the greatest sweet and sour dressing in Ohio. Mom got the baked rigatoni with meat sauce—a steaming hot plate of pasta, capped with melty cheese and accompanied by soft, homemade garlic bread. For us kids? Pizza—sweet, simple, amazing pizza. We did not “blot” in our family (grease was intended for pizza), and we did not leave anything on the field.
Tomaso’s first opened in 1973, but times change. Tomaso’s has changed, my family has changed. Even still, as is the magic of food, it takes us places. It takes comfort food to a whole new level—food like that at Tomaso’s erases pain and reminds one of a simpler time. The Thomas elders passed on their favorite recipes, and my grandparents passed those dishes to me. It was a wonderful, happy accident that landed me on the squeaky leathery booths of Tomaso’s, but I’m thankful for it.
What’s even better? Even if you have none of the insane sentiment tied up in Tomaso’s, the food is still damn good enough to have you coming back time after time.
So thank you to the Thomas family—Betty, Lezlie, Greg and Kym—for sharing your craft with the world. Devil Strip nation, jump in—take a chance, spend an evening in the pleasant company of Tomaso’s friendly staff and warm ambiance. Step outside the Rubber City to someplace a little more magical.