Archive for the ‘pasta’ Tag

Reservations   Leave a comment



It’s obvious that my husband and I are tourists in Rome. We wear expressions of awe and confusion. One thing we don’t do is always carry a guidebook. There’s nothing wrong with them, but I was surprised to count the number of people who approached Trattoria da Teo with books in hand.

Our B&B host told us about Teo’s. We didn’t know we needed reservations. The restaurant, like most in Rome, opens at 7:30. This was something many with Rick Steves and Frommer’s weren’t aware of either, but a fair number was. Perhaps the guidebooks should be more detailed. We sat in the small piazza watching people go to Teo’s door only to be turned away. We waited more than 30 minutes and once inside were told there was one remaining table available for someone without reservations.

Although this is a popular Trastevere  eatery, we weren’t wowed. The food wasn’t photogenic, but there were a few bright spots, including the lightly breaded calamari with artichokes. Read the rest of this entry »

Pesto is the Best(o)   3 comments



I’d been told many times that pesto made from basil grown in the Cinque Terre is especially good. The warm sun and coastal air make the licorice-flavored herb uniquely pungent. Basil is not a mild flavor, so I was intrigued by the idea of a different, perhaps stronger taste. I ate pesto several times over the course of three days to make sure.

Rest assured, it was very good, but I think the local olive oil may also be a contributing factor. Although, each dish I sampled allowed the rich green basilica to shine. The oil did not overpower, which can be the case with some versions.

We stayed in Riomaggiore where in late February it is still the low season. We found only two restaurants open. In nearby Manarola, there were more options, but not an overwhelming  number.

My pesto dinners were surprisingly different, albeit only slightly. One, at Pizzeria da Mam’angela, featured potatoes. Osteria Maite’s had pine nuts and was a darker green, but both were mixed with perfect al dente tagliolini, a linguini-like fresh pasta.

La Scogliera in Manarola offered several options for pesto, including lasagne, gnocchi and minestrone. I had the latter. The soup was rustic and hearty . The serving was just right for a late lunch.


At home a large serving of pasta with pesto would suffice as a meal. One night I opted to eat as Italians do and had a primi plati and a secondi plati (grilled swordfish). It was a lot of food. The second evening  I had only pasta. Perfecto!


Comfort (food) Italian Style   Leave a comment


I’m not Italian, but that’s my go-to comfort food and pasta tops the list. At Terroni in downtown Los Angeles, the pasta is made fresh daily on site. There’s little else that can offer such solace when it comes to food.

Terroni is located in a cavernous space that once housed a bank. The ceiling seems to reach several stories. Sculptures hang overhead, a boar’s head and art adorn the wall, the open kitchen surges with activity and the dining room is very contemporary given the historic roots of the building.

Bread is brought to the table in a brown paper bag. It’s old world and clever at the same time. Plus, the bread is soft with a chewy crust. We start with Arancini di Modica. The spin on these rice balls, besides the artful way they’re plated, is the cheese and hearty ragu. There are three of us and four arancini. We’re polite about it, but wish we didn’t have to share the fourth.


I order Maccheroncini Geppetto, which was difficult to say, but easy to eat. The rigatoni-like pasta was suffused with a tomato-based sauce featuring homemade sausage, garlic and fontina. The sausage had a nice spice kick easily absorbed by the pasta. I tasted the Spaghetti al Limone, which was like a lemon grove. Olive oil and parmigiano were part of the mix, but lemon was the overwhelming essence.


The restaurant is beautiful and likely to be noisy when busy; fortunately, it wasn’t on our visit. I enjoy good conversation with my comfort food.

Terroni Downtown
Four Plates
802 S. Spring St.
Los Angeles

Bar & Grill is Less & More   Leave a comment

The Clement Street Bar & Grill in San Francisco’s Richmond District creates an inauspicious initial impression. It’s dark, older and, at first glance, the menu, in a plastic sleeve, features a scattered array of offerings. Thankfully, first impressions aren’t always right.


We dined at CSB&G to commemorate my oldest son’s graduation for his master’s from the University of San Francisco. The bar made it possible for us to raise our glasses in celebration, and the grill provided entrees to make it special. Our guest of honor selected Salmon glazed in an orange vinaigrette. The grilled-to-perfection fish was showcased by the tanginess of the glaze. I had the Black Truffle Porcine Mushroom Ravioli. The earthy blend in the light pasta pillows was rich and satisfying. Other dishes included the Pasta with Scallops and Shrimp in a rich wine base; a well-grilled New York Steak; Fettucine with Chicken; and Pork Tenderloin with a cranberry chutney. Everyone one at our table was pleased.


Nonetheless, we wanted dessert — in large part because we couldn’t ignore the tantalizing offerings: Key Lime Pie, Creme Brulee, Banana Cream Pie with Black Bottom Crust and Fresh Blackberry Pie. Unfortunately, the temptations fared better on the menu than they did in reality. The caramel shell over the Creme Brulee was too thick; it overpowered the otherwise well-executed vanilla custard underneath. The pies were fine, but not exceptional.


Our eyes adjusted to the comfortable setting, we enjoyed our meal, and things weren’t as dark or old as they first appeared. I can only hope the same can be said of me.

Clement Street Bar & Grill
Four Plates
708 Clement St.
San Francisco, Calif

The Potential for Going South   Leave a comment

The occasion can just as easily make a dining establishment enjoyable as the food and service can detract. A friend’s recent birthday celebration drew us to 2 South Wine Bar, a fun place to dine but not without some shortcomings. Interestingly, the evening was also our server’s birthday, which he didn’t seem to mind spending serving others, although he wasn’t necessarily exemplary.

One of the most impressive things about 2 South is its wine menu. Once we selected a bottle, it took a while before it arrived at our table. Another long period of time passed before our food order was taken, and in keeping with the delay theme, our entrees were a long time coming. Fortunately, the wait was overshadowed by good conversation.


I must say though, I was completely happy with my order of pasta with Oxtail Bolognese served with pomodoro, basil and baked parmesan chips. The menu identified the pasta as vermicelli, but it was actually a thicker variety. It was beautifully plated, perfectly seasoned but small in quantity. Two friends ordered the Macaroni and Cheese, which has become the comfort food of choice on many menus. While it was tasty, it didn’t stand out and I tried not to be too smug about my not-filling plate of upscale spaghetti.

Since this was a birthday celebration we had to order dessert. We shared S’mores: toasted vanilla bean marshmallow, chocolate, and crushed graham cracker; and the Cardinal, a chocolate raspberry confection. Neither stood out, and we forgot to even sing.

We enjoyed ourselves, but may not be so forgiving next time.

2 South Wine Bar

Three Plates

2 S. 25th Street

Colorado Springs, CO

Bella Bellissima   Leave a comment

Most Italian restaurants go in for overkill in the dining room: red-checkered table cloths, Chianti bottles coated in streaming tears of wax, accordion music playing in the background. At Bella Panini, however, the emphasis on all things Italian takes place in the kitchen – where it should.

The friends who introduced us to Bella warned us that on a Friday night we’d be in for a lengthy wait to get a table. Somehow, we timed our arrival just right and were seated immediately. Although our companions are regulars,  we all received a warm welcome.

The restaurant features an impressive beer and wine menu, but it’s the food that commands your attention. An array of pastas and Paninis are available, as are soups and salads. The thin crust pizza was tempting, but I was more attracted to the Stuffed Pasta Roll and the nightly fish special: Sea Bass Topped with Etouffee over a bed of Linguini.

The pasta roll is stuffed with sausage, spinach and mushrooms covered with a sun dried tomato pesto sauce. It’s lasagna gone round. The fish was equally creative. Who would think of Etoufee in a place called Bella Panini? The classic Louisiana stew made with shrimp and crawfish was just piquant enough to make sure I was awake to enjoy it. The mild, flakey sea bass was the perfect neutralizer.

The one nod to the décor is in the subtle murals evocative of rural Italy. That’s easy enough to dine with. Mangiare!

Bella Panini
Four-and-a-Half Plates
4 Highway 105
Palmer Lake, Colo

Pastabilities   Leave a comment

With only 10 tables, it’s not unusual for people to lineup outside Giampietro Pasta and Pizzeria.
Don’t be put off by a likely wait; it’s worth it. Everything is made in-house – from thin crust pizza to tra-
ditional Northern Italian entrees to gourmet pastas. There is something for everyone from a picky kid
who will eat only noodles with butter to wanna-be foodies who want to consume every single morsel on
the plate.

My husband and I hit the jackpot recently when we were seated immediately. Of course, we were in tight
quarters and could easily have picked something off a plate at a nearby table (we didn’t). We started with
a Beet and Ricotta Salad served over spinach. Fresh beets had been pickled giving them a pale countenance
that seemed out of character. Instead, they were another version of themselves. We ordered Linguini with
Clams and the Short Rib Ravioli with Fennel and Spinach. Our intent was to share.

Once I took a bite of the ravioli, I reneged; no way was I sharing. The beef had been braising all day.
Its depth of flavor was augmented by Marsala, chicken stock and fennel bulbs. It tasted as if brown sugar
or syrup had been added, but our server said it was the combination of the wine and stock. Fresh pasta
pockets were the perfect foil for the rich filling. The linguini was fine, but not over-the-top like the ravioli.

Although I was completed sated, I really wanted another order to take home (I didn’t).

Giampietro Pasta and Pizzeria
Four-and-a-half Plates
100 N. Main St.
Breckenridge, CO

In the Chef’s Hands   Leave a comment

Although I know the difference between good manners and bad, I wanted to throw
that wisdom out the door at Scarpetta. I enjoyed an early birthday present from
my mother and a dear friend where we ordered the four course tasting menu. I want-
ed to lick each plate clean after every single serving, but etiquette prevailed.

With the tasting menu we put ourselves at the chef’s mercy – and generosity. To be-
gin: Crudo of Sashimi and Yellowtail with ginger oil. Both sang in my mouth. A prawn-
stuffed, deep-fried Zucchini Blossom followed. We received two extra courses. The
first, a plate of Braised Short Ribs served on a bed of farro. The tender meat was smooth
as butter on a warm day. Scarpetta is known for its Spaghetti, which was served next.
It sounds pedestrian; yet, with a sauce of reduced fresh tomatoes and basil, this was
perhaps the most perfect al dente pasta I’ve eaten.

While enjoying the spaghetti, a server brought another extra, Agnotti. These small pasta
pouches were stuffed with reduced short rib marrow and drizzled with browned butter.
At this point it might seem the entrée would have been overkill, but it wasn’t. Black Cod
over roasted fennel and tomato was another taste spectacular.

Perhaps having dessert was too much, but it was wonderfully over the top. An assort-
ment of flavors and textures arrived on one plate featuring Caramel Budino, Pineapple
Panna Cotta, Chocolate Molten Cake, and Hazlenut Gelato.

I was sated and too well-mannered to moan in delight.

Five Plates
225 N. Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA