Tomato Brothers, Italian Cuisine in Howell, Michigan

Tomato Brothers is a family-friendly Italian restaurant that our smiling server describes as, “It’s like eating homemade, without having to cook.” I have to agree with her; the scratch-made Italian food tastes like an Italian grandmother is in the kitchen.

Location: Tomato Brothers located at 3030 West Grand River in Howell, Michigan.

Menu: The menu has a wide range of Italian and American favorites. There are sandwiches and salads, pasta and pizza, as well as entrees like steak and chicken. Gluten-free and vegetarian options are available.

Thoughts: The owners recently updated the décor to a light and airy feel. The restaurant has an ample waiting area with a comfortable couch, large bar, along with tables and booths. The booths have dividers at the top with a decorative multi-colored stained-glass rectangle design for added privacy.

While the parking lot may look busy, don’t let that deter you from venturing inside. The restaurant often has space available, even though the parking lot looks busy. In total, the restaurant will seat over 200 people.

There are several chicken dishes to choose from including chicken Marsala, chicken piccata, and chicken parmesan. The chicken Marsala is two chicken breasts sautéed in Marsala wine, with mushrooms, and a touch of garlic. The chicken piccata is two tender chicken breasts sautéed with white wine, capers, and a spritz of lemon. They lightly bread the chicken parmesan, top it with mozzarella cheese, and marinara sauce. All of these chicken dishes come on a bed of pasta.

My favorite dishes include:

The Italian sausage Stromboli with sausage, onions, green peppers, and mozzarella and ricotta cheese baked in a golden brown crust. The side of marinara sauce accompanies this hand-held. I like to order this and the apple orchard salad and divide it with my dining partner for a more-than-enough lunch.

The apple orchard salad made from crisp, fresh romaine, salty parmesan cheese, crunchy pecans, dried cranberries, Granny Smith apples, sliced red onions and grilled chicken breast. A creamy poppy seed dressing tops it all off. This salad is an entrée; however, with so many enticing menu items we split the salad and shared an entrée. Share the salad as a starter. It’s easily enough for three diners.

Breadsticks accompany the meal, and you won’t want to miss these. The cook brushes these irregularly shaped breadsticks in garlic butter and serves them warm from the oven. They’re crisp on the outside, soft, and chewy on the inside. The restaurant serves them with ranch dressing or marinara sauce. I’ve eaten at Tomato Brothers several times. This is the first time I was asked if I wanted cheese dip to accompany the breadsticks. Our server assured us that “people come out of the walls for this dip” and we shouldn’t miss it. I have to say she was right. Sadly, I had been missing out. The cheese dip for spreading on the breadsticks is a cream cheese base, with garlic and seven kinds of cheese. Which seven cheeses remains a secret, as the kitchen would only divulge the obvious cream cheese base.

The lasagna with meat sauce is also an experience. The portion is generous, and you’ll most likely have some for lunch the next day. There are many layers of fresh, thin egg noodles, ground beef, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Accompanied by a soup or salad, it makes a complete dinner.

Price Range: Appetizers range from $6.95 for loaded potato skins to $12.95 for an appetizer combination platter that includes barbeque ribs. Pizzas range from $10.95 for a nine-inch personal size pizza to $19.95 for a large Tomato Brothers Special that includes both mozzarella and Muenster cheese. Entrées range from $10.95 for spaghetti and meatballs to $22.95 for New York strip steak. The entrees include soup or salad and warm breadsticks. With taxes and tip, lunch or dinner for two runs about $35.00.

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Amy Piper

Amy Piper is a freelance food and travel writer. She writes about food and multi-generational travel on her blog Follow the Piper. You can follow her on Twitter @amythepiper.

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