The white table linen and heavy cutlery are an indication of the fine
dining to come.
A balloon of puffed bread appeared immediately, irresistible with
its drizzle of olive oil and flecks of herbs. The crust crackled as
if fried, but unless I miss my guess, it was a wood-fired oven that
worked its magic on this crisp dough.
As soon as one "bomba" was devoured, another was delivered to the
table. We had to beg the waiter to stop, as we wanted to enjoy our
meal, not just our ethereal bread. Our server was sympathetic to our
request, and was responsive in other respects as well. He
knowledgeably described a lengthy list of specials (neither speeding
through them nor sounding bored), and was able to answer questions
about the preparation of dishes.
He thoughtfully arranged for the host to take our order as we were
ready at the same time as a large party, and would otherwise have had
a long wait. Without asking, our shared first course was split for us
in the kitchen, avoiding awkward "dishing up" at the table. It is
worth noting that the menu indicates that there will be a "splitting
charge" for main courses.
The entrees we sampled were ample for two, so the sharing fee is
well worth it, as you can neatly sample several dishes, or order one
for two diners. That first course, Insalata Far Niente ($13) was a
promising beginning. Framed by vivid purple radicchio leaves, the
salad is composed of crisp-tender green beans, thick slices of
peak-of summer tomatoes, black olives and some large, tender shrimp.
A light, tangy Chardonnay dressing was the perfect complement to this
One of the nightly specials, blue-nosed bass in Champagne-mustard
sauce, was a bit disappointing. A generous portion, but the fish was
both overcooked and under-sauced. The dish was disconcertingly
accompanied by a bland dome of mashed potatoes and braised red
cabbage. Very unseasonal, especially after the glorious tomatoes and
green beans in the salad.
The Capelli d'Angelo ai Fruitti de Mare (angel hair pasta with
fruits of the sea -- $21) was a gargantuan portion of pasta in a
light tomato sauce, generously studded with a plethora of seafood.
Shrimp, calamari rings, clams and black mussels in their shells, bay
scallops and more dot the strands of very thin pasta.
Angel hair pasta is tricky to do right, as it cooks to mush very
quickly. This was excellently prepared, tender but resilient at the
center. I cannot imagine how one person could finish this much food,
even if great restraint was exercised with the bread. We failed to
manage dessert. Mea culpa -- on our next visit, we will do better!
Kudos: Very comfortable ambience, excellent service from a
welcoming staff add to the generally well-executed fare. Banquet
Quibbles: The wine glassware is clunky, compared to the other
tableware. A good glass makes a big difference.
* CHERIE MERCER TWOHY teaches cooking in La Canada Flintridge. She
can be reached at www.chezcherie.com.