Salvatore's Tomato Pies opened last month in Sun Prairie, with former Dane County Supervisor Patrick DePula at the helm and partner Drew Griffin, formerly sous chef at Natt Spil and a line cook at the Weary Traveler, running the kitchen.
DePula, a native of Trenton, N.J., looked back to his roots when dreaming up Salvatore's. (The restaurant is named after DePula's young son, "the real boss," he admits.) The tomato pie is Trenton's unique variation on American pizza, built "in reverse" says DePula, with the cheese layered on the crust first, then the toppings, and lastly the tomato sauce. "It's a rustic sort of pizza, says DePula, with "some blister and char" on the crust.
In Trenton, DePula relates, legend has it that "pizza" supplanted the term "tomato pie" only because when making neon signs, it was cheaper to go with fewer letters.
"We create Italian-American immigrant food, as it was in the beginning of the last century," he says, "the way it was before the chains adulterated it into fast food."
Cheese is Grande whole milk mozzarella, and sauce is made in-house from Stanislaus tomatoes -- and a 100-year-old family recipe. (Fresh tomatoes will be used during the window they're available locally, DePula notes.) Sausage is housemade -- "even our sauce is flavored with fresh herbs, never dried." DePula's wife, Nichole, who also cooks at the Concourse Hotel, makes the bread, pizza dough, ice cream and other desserts.
The partners used a brick oven "cobbled together" in DePula's backyard to test out pizza recipes; for the restaurant, they invested in a 40-year-old gas deck oven.
Salvatore's just got its liquor license. Currently it's serving mostly the tomato pies, but not just ordinary ones. "We created a special this week: Cabernet-soaked mission figs, gorgonzola, bacon and balsamic/Cabernet reduction," says DePula. More entrees are in the works, like chicken cacciatore and braised pork featuring RP's Pasta: "We'll rotate braised-meat specials, steak, mussels."