Friday, April 25, 2008


Mama Mia! I actually found a real Italian buffet! Many readers ask me where there is an Italain buffet. Other than restaurants and buffets that may have an Italian buffet menu night and other than pizza buffets (which are more American than Italian) I have never come across a full time Italian Buffet - until now! Right off, I must thank who connected me to this buffet. It is a great young man by the name of David, who just happens to be my nephew. We don't often get to see him but we had the wonderful opportunity to get together with him recently and I was telling him about this site and asking him if he knew of any buffets. He went on a teen tour last summer and on the tour he went to Frankie Tomatto's All You Can Eat Italian Feast. He told me about it and I then found the restaurant's website - which by the way is quite an experience in itself! Now, as I always make clear if I am writing an article about a restaurant that I have not personally been to, what I am writing here is based upon all of the information that I have been able to learn, BUT I have not actually dined there. In this case, David did eat there and I can, through him, comment on the food.

So - Frankie Tomatto's All You Can Eat Italian Feast is in Canada. It is located in Markham, Ontario which is very near, if not in, Toronto. The restaurant's building looks on the outside like the Coliseum in Rome. The website has a virtual tour of the entire restaurant so I feel like I have actually been inside. When you enter you are in a lobby area that looks like an Italian area in a theme park. You are transported to rustic Italy - but more of a fun fantasy Italy than the real thing. The dining rooms are similar in decor with walls that are made to look like exterior ancient building walls - all of it looks like a lot of fun! Different rooms have different Italian fun themes. There are ten different dining rooms. The buffet serving areas in this restaurant are set up to be a marketplace. This was the first thing that came to mind when David was telling me about it. You go up to different sections for different types of foods.

Pricing at Frankie Tomatto's is on the mid-level of the buffets that we usually talk about it. It is not a buffet where you will eat dinner for $10 or $11 - though few are any more. All prices are in Canadian Dollars. With the recent currency exchange they are more in US Dollars. Dinner here Monday to Thursday is $14.99. Lunch on weekdays is $10.99. Friday dinner is $17.99. Saturday dinner is $18.99. Sunday dinner is $17.99. Holidays dinner is $18.99. There is lunch on Saturday for $12.99. There is no lunch on Sunday but there is Brunch and that is $14.99. They also list late night prices - weeknights $10.99, Friday/Saturday $13.99, and Early bird Fridays for $12.99. There are reasonable children's prices - half price for three to eleven, two and under are $1.99. Seniors over 65 get a 15% discount at all times. While I am sure a variety of beverages are served, there is no mention of beverage prices on the website.

The buffet is scattered along "Main Street" where there are fourteen different food stations. Oh yes, fourteen! They state that the food is made in small quantities and right in front of you at each food station so that everything is always hot and fresh. You are encouraged to try a little of this and a little of that and eat all that you care to eat.

Let's start with the Seafood Station. Here you will find mussels marinara, calamari, seafood pasta, baked salmon, seafood polenta, and Atlantic sole. Next door you come to the Rotisserie. Here you may have spit chicken, cacciatore, roast potatoes, chicken and veal Parmesan, roast veal, and Italian sausage with peppers and onions. The next station is called Ortaggi - get ready for fresh grilled vegetables, eggplant Paresan, rice Italiano, potato rosti, seasonal vegetables, and frittata. (I have to stop for a moment and tell you that I am only at the first three of the fourteen stations and I already want to make arrangements to get to this restaurant as fast as I can - my mouth is watering as I write!) Ok - moving on. The stations are grouped in threes - three "stalls" in a building - and they all look like buildings on an Italian alley way. You come to the next building and find the Carvery at the corner. Here the meat selection that is being carved appears to change and one of these items will be available - roast sirloin, turkey, baked stuffed salmon, roast lamb, glazed ham, or roast veal. Next door - pasta! Pasta specialties are made in front of you and the selections vary. Of course, if you have pasta there has got to be meatballs - and the Meatballs Station follows with linguine, Italian Meatballs, alfredo sauce, and vongole (clam sauce) and tomato sauce. Across the way is the Zuppa Station with homemade soups and their special Minestrone soup. Next to the soup is the Antipasti Station with peel and eat shrimp, Italian salads, marinated olives, and more. The order of these shops are not in the order of eating (at least as they are presented on the website). Dessert stations come up next with Spumoni's Gelato Bar with 16 flavors of ice cream, gelato, and Italian ices. Next door is Maria's Pasticceria with sweets, cakes, pies, puddings and all types of Italian specialties. Across the way from here is Pizza with all types of fresh made pizzas. Across the aisle again is Frutta with fresh fruits in season. Next door from the fruit is the Bakery. In the Bakery you will find fresh baked Italian breads, rolls, buns, focaccia, and calabrese rolls. Just in case you wanted salad other than the antipasti, there is a station called Insalada that makes the specialty Caesar salad along with other fresh salads. The Caesar salad is made in front of you. Yes - fourteen stations! Oh my!

Is that enough? Yes... but there is more! There are specials on certain days and they are offered ALL day. Tuesdays bring all you can eat crab legs! Thursdays they are grilling steaks! Fridays are special Seafood selections! Kids eat free on Mondays. On Wednesdays Seniors get a buy one adult dinner and get one FREE. There are specials on birthdays but appears that you pay for these - either $4.99 or $6.99 (it is not clear) for birthday packages. This seems to include spinning a large tomato wheel and winning a prize and getting a number of extras including photographs, hats, and a special chocolate cake that looks like a pizza slice. The whole birthday explanation is on two pages and I am still not certain what it is all about. (It does not look like you are getting a discount or a free meal - but perhaps I am wrong. It does appear that you are paying for a birthday package.)

Frankie Tomatto's does take reservations and can accommodate large parties - with reservations. Reservations are accepted for parties of two to two hundred.

So how is the food? I am reporting on the the food based upon the report that I have from my nephew, David. Now, David is sixteen years old but for his age he has dined with his parents in many very fine restaurants. I feel that we can trust his opinion on the food and he said that it was very good. If any of my readers have been to Frankie Tomatto's I ask that you leave a comment with this article.

I am not only intrigued by this buffet, I am dying to go! It sounds terrific! And the report to me (from David) is that it is terrific. So if you live in Canada near Toronto you are all set! If you are in the US, go now and check that your passport is current and head north over the border. This is a destination buffet! Mangia! Mangia!

Frankie Tomatto's All You Can Eat Feast is located at 7225 Woodbine Avenue in Markham, Ontario L3RIA3. Directions on their site say that from 401 take exit 404 North to the Steeles/Woodbine exit - or from 407 exit Woodbine South and they are two lights north from Steeles. The phone number is 905-940-1900. There is a website - that is an experience all on its own - and the link is at the side of this page.


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Anonymous said...

I just came back from Frankie's today, and I was very disappointed with the food selection.

Mind you, I AM a vegetarian, so my options were a bit limited.

The best food item I found was the bruschetta, but even this was subpar; The bruschetta was made with gummy processed cheese instead of real feta, and the bread was stale.

The veggie pasta dishes were soggy and flavourless; They could have pulled the pasta out of Chef Boyardee cans and I wouldn't be able to taste the difference.

Although there are lots of dessert options like tiramisu and carrot cake, the processed flavour of these desserts renders them unedible. I guess if you are someone who has grown up tasting real bittersweet chocolate and wholesome butter in your treats, you would not be impressed by Frankie's selection.

The salad bars leave much to be desired. The veggies in these salads are overwhelmingly wilted and the sauces taste like bland tomato sauce.

I think the reason why Frankie's is so popular is because of its cool design. I guess management knew their food sucked and that the only way to lure customers was to make the place fun looking.

All in all, two very big thumbs down to Frankie's from me.