Remember when you were childless, and going out for dinner meant sitting at a romantic table for two, gazing lovingly into the eyes of your partner as you leisurely sipped at your wine and let the hours stretch out before you as you indulged in deep and meaningful conversation over appetizers and entrees? Remember when the options were endless for which restaurant you would choose, and a second thought didn’t need to be given to whether your venue of choice allowed children or whether or not high chairs would be available? Remember when you would go out to eat and actually had the time to peruse the dessert menu, despite the fact that you had no intentions of actually ordering anything from it? I do. Vaguely.
As you may or may not know, I consider myself to be somewhat of a foodie; I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily because I think that I am a gourmet by any stretch, but rather because I just love food and all things food-related. My best friend and I could spend hours watching and critiquing shows like Chopped on the Food Network. We know exactly which items to leave off the plate when cooking for our favourite celebrity chefs (never present raw red onions to Scott Conant, obviously) and where to locate each of their restaurants in New York City. I love pouring over food blogs and Pinterest to try new recipes and feel proud of myself whenever I know which spices would pair well in a recipe without having to look it up online. All this is to say, being a parent has raised somewhat of a challenge for me when it comes to indulging in one of my favourite activities, which is trying out new restaurants and revisiting some of my favourites.
When Beckett was a newborn, he was incredibly mobile and easy to tote around from place to place. Stu and I still enjoyed meeting friends for dinner and treating ourselves to date nights at different restaurants. However, as he grew and discovered the joys of his newfound mobility, things started to change. Suddenly, we were learning about the challenges faced by all of those parents we had once observed and felt pity for while dining out in our childless days.
Suddenly, we were learning the importance of knowing our order before arriving at the restaurant, or at the very least, being able to choose our dishes shortly after sitting down. Suddenly, we were learning the value of a good (cheap) Kid’s Menu. Suddenly, we were learning the trick of removing all cutlery, water glasses, candles and napkins from the perimeter of the table, lest they be used as a weapon or instrument, or end up on the ground. Suddenly, we were learning about the kindness of strangers as our child reached for the plate being set on a neighbouring table and managed to convince its recipient to share some of her fries. Suddenly, we were learning the importance of packing multiple distractions to keep our toddler entertained long enough for us to finish our meal. Suddenly, we were learning what it felt like to be on the receiving end of judgmental sideways glances as our child spilled noodles all over the floor, despite our best intentions. Suddenly, we were learning all of these things and more, and (without sounding like that mom, who claims that her child is perfect), we were learning all of these things despite our child actually being pretty well-behaved most of the time.
Simply put, dining out is more challenging now. It’s not that it isn’t worthwhile or enjoyable anymore, it’s just different. That’s why, anytime we find a restaurant that makes these types of challenges easier to navigate, we clutch it in our palms like a shiny little diamond and laugh maniacally as if we have just discovered the secret for global domination. We also do the nice thing, and share our newfound love with anyone and everyone who will listen. So lean in, fellow hungry parents, I’ve got something to share with you now.
Ripe Tomato Pizza. Have you heard of it?
If you have a love affair with pizza like our family does, then, parent or not, I think you’re gonna love this place. The restaurant we visited in Marda Loop has a more casual feel, which helped to make us feel a little more relaxed right off the bat. For us, having the option of dine-in or take out is a lovely option, since we can get our fix at home or in the company of fellow pizza lovers. There are already four locations in Calgary, two of which are in shopping centres (The Core and Market Mall), and the other two, which are standalone restaurants (in Marda Loop and West 85), so chances are good that you’ve got one within driving distance. Good news for any of y’all living in Airdrie and Edmonton – you’ve got restaurants coming your way soon!
So, what’s so great about it? Well, let’s start with the fact that this pizza is not like regular pizza, alright? This is cool pizza. If you missed my Mean Girls reference there, we can still be friends. Read on. Anyone who’s ever traveled to Naples, Italy (not me, but it’s on my to-do list) and has tried the pizza there can attest to the deliciousness that is Neapolitan pizza. At Ripe Tomato, the wood-fired pizza, made with fresh ingredients and Caputo “00” flour (which is low gluten, but not gluten-free), offers a healthier alternative to traditional pizza. Ingredients sourced from local companies, such as cheese from Alberta Cheese Company Ltd. and meats and cheeses from Scarpone’s mean that you can feel good about supporting fellow Calgarians with every bite. Gluten-free options are, available too, at an additional cost.
More great news. On Tuesdays, kids eat FREE! I don’t know about you, but that’s one of my favourite words. We took our little guy on a Tuesday and were happy to see lots of other families in the restaurant when we arrived. Additionally, we were excited to learn that, with our 12” pizza, we would receive the most precious gift of all – not one, but two FREE two-topping, 6” pizzas. We ended up ordering the Dolce E Picante pizza, which came with Calabrese Salami, Prosciutto, Grape Tomatoes, Honey, Chili Flakes, Farmesan, Fresh Arugula and Fior Di Latte for ourselves ($15), and a 6” Ham and Pineapple and a 6” Pepperoni and Ricotta pizza to share with Beckett. We also ordered a Caprese Salad and the Ripe Tomato Soup. For all of this, we paid $24 and were very well-fed. We definitely could have saved some for leftovers, but, I’m not gonna lie – we ate it all.
We loved the Docle E Picante and the Pepperoni and Ricotta pizzas the most. We were all crazy for the Ripe Tomato Soup. The Caprese salad, I’d definitely pass on next time. We can’t wait to go back and try something new (although we’ll definitely be getting the Dolce pizza again).
So, pizza lovers, are you going to try it out? Have you tried it before? Got any awesome tips for dining out with your little ones? I’d love to hear it all in the comments!