THE BEER NUT: Tomasso impresses with creative beer menu

MetroWest Daily News : Wednesday, January 14, 2009

SOUTHBOROUGH —It is something I’ve always railed against: restaurants that have fantastic and deep wine and spirits lists, but offer nothing but mainstream, flavorless beers.

Sure, several places, such as the Armsby Abbey in Worcester and the Publick House in Brookline have fantastic beer to match the fantastic food but they are beer-first types of places.

Rarely are there restaurants that are food only that put a lot of thought into their beer list.

That’s why Tomasso Trattoria & Enoteca on Rte. 9 in Southborough stands out. They put just as much thought in the beer list as they do for wine and spirits. None are overlooked and all are given equal respect on the menu.

“Here at Tomasso, we try to have the best of everything, and that includes not only wine and food, but beer as well,” said Mary Prince, one of the owners.

The beer list is fantastic, featuring several imported beers as well as local craft beers. Outside of the imported beers, the furthest any of the beers travel is from Delaware.

Beverage manager Lawrence Cunningham said his goal is to try to find beers that pair well with food while trying to remain true to the restaurant’s themes of local ingredients and smaller wine producers.

“I really tried to follow that when I put together the list,” he said. “A bulk of them are based, really, on my personal tastes.”

Cunningham has good taste.

The imported beer list features some of the best Belgian beers available in the United States, including Orval Trappist Ale, Rochefort 6, 8, 10 and Westmalle Trappist Tripel.

Many of these are rarely seen even in a beer-centric restaurant, and the prices are not bad. For example, a 750 ml St. Berardus Abt 12 from Belgium costs $19 a bottle. It’s usually more than $10 at a liquor store.

It also features some of the better Italian beers you can buy the Menabrea Blonde Ale and Amacord Blonde, Amber and Brown ales.

Germany is well represented with Pinkus Mueller Organic Pilsner, Erdinger Hefeweizen, Schneider Doppelbock and Plank Dunkler Weizenbock.

The American craft list is extremely diverse. It has beers from almost any style you can think of, including barley wines (Rock Art’s Ridge Runner), pale ale (Cisco’s Whale Tale), porters (Otter Creek’s Stovepipe) to black lagers (Buzzard Bay).

It also has rare beers available, including Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Marron, which is the world’s strongest brown ale, and J.W. Lee’s Port Aged-Ale (2006 vintage).

During the week, the restaurant does a presso-fisso (fixed price) menu a three course meal for $30. For an extra $15, a person can have each course paired with a wine or a beer.

Some people are shocked by how good the beer goes with food, Cunningham said, including a recent pairing of duck with Brewery Ommegang’s Three Philosophers, a Belgian-style quad brewed with 2 percent cherry lambic.

“I actually had a customer who had the Three Philosophers, and he was so surprised by how it well it went that he ordered a second bottle,” said Cunningham. “People are really getting into it.”

When she first started tasting the beers Cunningham picked out, Prince was impressed by the wide range of flavors that are available.

“I’m amazed because a lot of it doesn’t taste like beer,” she said. “It almost tastes like a fine wine. When customers get it, and understand what we’re trying to do, they know we’re doing something right.”

If you really like one of the beers you taste at Tomasso, step next door to Panzanao, a Tuscan market run by Tomasso’s owners.

Almost all of the beers, as well as the wines and nearly every other ingredient used at the restaurant, are available for sale, Prince said.

Tomasso Trattoria & Enoteca is located at the Crossings, 154 Turnpike Road, Southborough. It is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 508-481-8484 or go to www.tomassotrattoria.com.

– Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer.

For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail nmiller@cnc.com or call 508-626-3823. Check out the Beer Nut blog at https://blogs.townonline.com/beernut/.