This installment of the Detroit Pizza Tour takes us to Tomatoes Apizza, located in the uppermost reaches of Farmington Hills, a stones throw from West Bloomfield Township (right on 14 mile dividing line).
Tomatoes Apizza actually has two location, both in Farmingtom Hills. I choose to review the 14 Mile location because I’ve had pizza from both, and prefer it. Could it have something to do with the coal-fired pizza oven? (The more southern location, on Halsted, uses a brick oven.) Maybe! Or perhaps it was because the pizza I had at the Halstead location was part of a pizza buffet, so not made to my specifications and sitting out a bit.
In any event, let’s skip to the chase. This Tomatoes Apizza is located in a ho-hum strip mall, not unlike thousands of strip malls in the burbs. You might pass it thinking it’s a dry cleaner if you’re not diligent. The inside is equally non-descript – the only truly remarkable feature about the ambiance being the stacks of white bags of coal in the lobby area. When you walk in, you will see these bags – at first glance looking like stack and stacks of bagged potatoes – and the large oven that will be perfecting your pie just behind the counter.
On the walls of the entryway, you’ll see among the faded photos a written history of this pizza, which traces the craft of arguably the first pizza baker in the US (Frank Pepe from West Haven, Connecticut) all the way to Tomatoes Apizza owner Mike Weinstein, who learned how to make pizza from someone who learned how to make pizza from Frank. That’s an impressive pedigree! And to have traveled across space and time to a suburb in Michigan, of all places!
The dining room is simple and stark, but what the atmosphere lacks in charm is made up for by the warmth of friends and families gathering over a really great meal. Oh, and the classic jazz that always seems to be playing – love that touch.
On to the food: There’s a simple salad bar, providing an adequate complement to the pizza – some olives and pepperoni thrown on there, and a classic balsamic dressing (and ranch for those so inclined). I like creating my own salad, though some might think this gives a “Big Boy” feel to the dining experience.
Now, to clarify, you will not be getting the Detroit-style thick square pie at Tomatoes Apizza, but rather an ultra thin – almost cracker thin – crust more typical of “New York” style pizza.
Personally, I find a super-thin crust makes a great base for a more sophisticated pizza – really lets the flavor of the toppings take center stage, making the crust more of a vehicle than a main event. And in this case, with such high quality toppings at Tomatoes Apizza, this is what you want!
One of the most charming traits of the Tomatoes Apizza pizza is the way it is served: it comes out on a cookie sheet rather than a round pizza pan, in an imperfect oblong shape. This, to me just highlights the home-made aesthetic of this exceptional pizza.
And the taste? Well, frankly, this is one of the favorite pizzas I’ve had so far, not just in Detroit, but in life. Ever. I love the simple, elegant toppings of the color-themed styles they have created – such as White: mozzarella, tomato, basil, garlic…just a stunning combination of classic Italian ingredients that was destined to meet on a pizza and live happily in your mouth.
There is also Red (red sauce and parmesan), Green (mozzarella, spinach, garlic), and Classic (red sauce and mozzarella). Of course you can add to these basic pies any combination of classic ingredients like pepperoni or green pepper or olives – and also a few less common toppings such as bacon or cherry peppers.
I’ve been to Tomatoes Apizza three times, and so far my favorites are White (as-is), and Classic with added mushroom and sausage. But I look forward to experimenting with even more combinations!
I’d be sadly remiss in my recommendation duties if I did not mention the Chocolate Piadina. Basically what amounts to Nutella (or reasonable facsimile) wrapped in pizza dough, this homely little treat will knock your socks off! Please don’t eat here without having one. I promise you will be writing me weepy letters of gratitude for having obeyed my instructions in this matter.
In summary, if you are in the area, you are doing yourself a grave disservice by not dining at Tomatoes Apizza at your first available opportunity.
One of the grandest accolades proudly displayed by the Tomatoes Apizza website comes from Alan Richman of GQ magazine, who named their pizza, “One of the 25 best pies on Earth.” That’s quite an endorsement! And while my pizza sampling experience may not be as wide as Mr. Richman’s, his proclamation validates my own hunches.
29275 West 14 Mile Road
Farmington Hills, MI