Johnson City’s Crazy Tomato restaurant is a favorite hangout of the dine-around bunch. Along with his other location in Colonial Heights, proprietor Ali Bagheri’s has a quarter-century of inviting diners in Johnson City over to “Eat. Drink. Be Full of Life.”
Bagheri’s menu is Italian for the most part but includes a number of non-Italian entrees. All are prepared to order, so come prepared to improve on your conversation skills while waiting for your meal to arrive.
As you peruse a menu, your server (ours was Chelsea) will provide you with a platter of fresh-baked Crazy Bread. Topped with a Parmesan, garlic and olive oil mix, the bread is paired with a ramekin of excellent marinara sauce, just the thing for helping you make your choice.
The Appetizers feature the Baked Tomato ($5.95) a generously proportioned ’mater that is stuffed with Parmesan, mozzarella and chopped garlic, then baked until molten. Be sure to let it cool before digging in.
Once past the Appetizers, the entrees beckon. If you’re interested in a calzone or a stromboli, there are several choices available, each priced from $5.99 to $6.99 and sizable enough that you’ll probably be taking some home for later.
Best of the bunch is the Crazy Veggie Calzone, ($6.99) stuffed with fresh spinach, onions, peppers, broccoli and mozzarella, garnished with a wash of Parmesan, spices and olive oil, then baked in a moist and crunchy pizza dough turnover until golden brown. A side of marinara is included, a fortunate afterthought.
Of the pasta dishes, the Chicken Parmigiana ($10.99) has been the favorite of the dine-around bunch for quite a while. Two chicken fillets are breaded and pan-fried, then laid on a bed of spaghetti pasta, topped with the marinara sauce and mozzarella, then baked until bubbly.
Pizzas at Crazy Tomato are excellent as well, sized individually from $2.95 up to an 18-inch pie for just shy of sixteen bucks. For that, you get freshly-made pizza dough, hand-tossed and formed with a variety of toppings and flavors to choose from. I recommend the Feta Pizza, where a combination pizza of pepperoni, ham, onions and mozzarella gets a healthy crumbling of fresh feta cheese. Add a light dusting of Parmesan and you won’t need the salt shaker here.
Another is the Spinach Pizza; fresh spinach and crushed garlic are mixed with olive oil and a ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese mixture, layered on the pizza dough and baked to perfection. I’d add a few onions as well for $1.50 more, but don’t expect a goodnight kiss. The 14-inch California Pizza ($15.95) builds on the Spinach Pizza, using peppercorn ranch dressing as its base and adding mushrooms and sliced chicken to the mix.
The most interesting item on the menu is the Pollo Tipico ($11.99) entree. Of Cuban/Caribbean origin, this is a sizable rolled flour tortilla filled with chicken sauteed in butter, white wine and garlic, tossed with mozzarella and Asiago cheeses, robed in Bagheri’s special Alfredo sauce, then baked and served bubbly with a healthy portion of refried and black beans. A simple green salad with oil and vinegar makes a good side order for this dish. Tipico also can be ordered with a spinach or vegetable medley filling.
If you’d like a glass of wine with your meal, Crazy Tomato’s got a decently stocked wine bar. You can order a bottle for your get-together with friends if you so desire; Bagheri stocks an excellent Chianti, among other choices.