Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tonda Pizza

Tonda Pizza is my new close to home go to place for a reasonably priced dinner out. It's a short walk to 4th and B from our place and unlike so many other pizza joints whose food I enjoy the room at Tonda is the perfect combination of sleek design and eclectic comfort. It gives you that feeling of eating out somewhere nice without having to spend mega bucks.

last night I went there solo as Neil is in Palm Springs feeling trapped by it's suburban car culture in the desert and unseasonably cold weather (I'm encouraging him to flee to San Francisco).

The menu at Tonda has a diverse selection of pizzas, and they offer a wonderful whole wheat crust option. They don't have a "make your own" option, but have in the few times I have asked been more than willing to make changes.

I'd come from yoga last night and was heading home to re-heat some lentil stew and make some sour dough rye bread toast. I wasn't planning on going out, but I had walked from Union Square and was freezing and all of a sudden lo and behold there was Tonda across the street beckoning me in. I yielded to temptation. They were showing black and white Boris Karloff movies on the back wall so I sat on the banquette facing it so I could watch it while I sipped my Sangiovese and awaited my food.

Which really brings me to the reason for this posting as I've already mentioned Tonda here before. Last night I wanted a plate o' food, not a generous sized personal pizza. I need to lose some winter weight and have been very good since coming back from Toronto about eating better and doing a ton of yoga. So I say to the waitress:

"I have a stupid question which I already am pretty sure I know the answer to, but here goes any way...your Roast Chicken (which appears on the menu just like that unadorned by any further adjectives or description) is it locally raised or free range or...."

Obviously I was desperate to have some roast chicken. It was the meal I was craving, but I was prepared not to order it if it was factory meat, which is exactly what I was expecting it to be. The waitress, much to my surprise said:

"You know I'm not sure and I should know, it used to be free range let me go ask".

So already she gets full points for being curious and helpful. After a few minutes she comes back to the table and tells me the chicken is free range and organic. Great! I order it.

When the plate arrives it is a generous portion of tasty smashed potatoes, with some broccoli rabe on the side with two leg/thigh sections piled on top. I ate it all up. My minor qualms were that the greens were a bit over salted for me and chicken was kind of dry. The crispy, unctuous skin mitigated this, but it got me wondering. When I make chicken at home I find that one of the joys of cooking organic chicken is that it is never dry. Particularly the legs which tend to be a darker, richer meat. The leg and thigh of this chicken tasted more like breast meat to me. My point is that because the word "organic" didn't appear on the menu or even the name of the farm that they get their poultry from I started to doubt the authenticity of this chicken. How do I really know it is organic? How do I know that the waitress or the cook didn't just say to themselves:

"Oh he'll never know the difference
"

Well it's a lesson for me because I learned last night that if you have to ask there is a reason, and usually the reason is because it's just another tortured, antibiotic soaked, caged, bird.

It makes no sense in this environment of heightened concern over the environmental and health impact of food that an East Village restaurant would not want to boast about the provenance of its poultry.

If you could sell more chicken by saying it's local, farm raised or organic (or all three) why wouldn't you? Why keep it a secret?

By all means check this place out, but if you want my two cents worth until they start stating in print where their meat comes from stick to the pizza.

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