Tomatoes were late in coming in this year--but now they're still peaking, and chefs are dishing them up in tomato tarts, tomato soup, tomato salads.
* Capo: Bruce Marder takes one slice each from a variety of ripe heirloom tomatoes and serves them on home-grown wild arugula with burrata or imported bufala mozzarella. He's also been making zuppa di pomodori from pureed yellow "persimmon" tomatoes, adds gnocchi and peeled sunburst cherry tomatoes and fresh basil from his garden. An eggplant and tomato terrine uses purple heart tomato sauce and four kinds of thyme and is served on wild arugula with green figs and olive oil. What's next? (Tomato appetizers, $12 to $16.) Capo, 1810 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 394-5550.
* Spago Beverly Hills: The heirloom tomato salad here is a stack of colorful slices of Chino farm tomatoes skewered with a breadstick and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A vine-ripened tomato soup comes with crispy squash blossom and bruschetta. Chef Lee Hefter's piece de resistance (sometimes on special) is a chilled soup of tomatoes and veggies served up into an astonishing gazpacho. (Tomato appetizers, $12 to $18.) Spago Beverly Hills, 176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 385-0880.
* Paio: At her new hideaway restaurant, chef Alisa Reynolds offers a simple, chilled tomato soup blended with tomato water and olive oil, and served with a few drops of herb-infused oil floated on top. (Tomato soup, $9.) Paio, 2520 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 953-1973.
* Pagani: Try the chilled tomato soup "San Marzano," a refreshing puree of fresh tomatoes with a dollop of eggplant "caviar" and a crowning touch of creme frappe. (That's French for whipped cream.) (Tomato soup, $7.) Pagani, 8800 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (310) 858-5801.
* A la Tarte: Although it looks like a tomato tarte, the waitress swears this pretty swirl of sliced ripe tomatoes, with fresh basil leaves and slivered olives on a buttery crust, is actually the feuillete provencal. Whatever it's called, eating it is like biting into the juicy warm heart of summer. (Feuillete, $4.75.) A la Tarte, 1037 Swarthmore Ave., Pacific Palisades, (310) 459-6635.
* Pastis: The simple, fresh tomato tarte here is seasoned with pistou and served with a small salad. Tomatoes make another honorable showing in the chilled gazpacho. (Tomato tart, $7.50; soup, $6.) Pastis, 8114 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 655-8822.
* Patina: The chilled and fetching organic yellow tomato soup comes with avocado and Dungeness crab. And the John Dory is sauteed with "melted" heirloom tomatoes, with basil and Italian summer truffles. (Tomato soup, $17.50; John Dory with tomatoes, $29.95.) Patina, 5955 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 467-1108.