Archive for the 'Italian' Category

Tosca Cafe – San Francisco

Tosca Cafe - San Francisco

On my second night in San Francisco, I tucked into Tosca Cafe for a solo dinner. Even though the bar area was packed with Thursday night revelers, I fortunately landed a table in the main dining room without a wait. The dining gods must’ve been looking after me after the insane wait at Flour + Water the night before. I was seriously grateful.

Tosca Cafe - San Francisco

I wasn’t familiar with Tosca Cafe prior to Chef April Bloomfield (New York’s Spotted Pig, John Dory Oyster Bar, and Breslin) and her business partner Ken Friedman’s gastronomic takeover late last year. But from what I gather from scouring the ‘net, Tosca was a 95-year-old dive bar with killer cocktails and quite the following in its heyday.

Tosca Cafe - San Francisco

Today, the kitchen is as essential as the bar.  Chef Bloomfield’s modern Italian-American menu has re-energized the place, bringing in a whole new foodie set but still resonating with regulars.

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Flour + Water – San Francisco

Flour + Water - San Francisco

Before the business portion of my San Francisco jaunt began, I was able to pencil in some family time with my Bay Area-dwelling cousins: Jessica, Andrew, and Michael. I’ve been desiring a dinner at pizza and pasta powerhouse Flour + Water for years now, and all three cousins were game for a whole lotta carbs.

Flour + Water - San Francisco

Without advance reservations, our party planned to meet when doors opened at 5:30 PM to avoid waiting for a table. Unfortunately, Cousin Andrew couldn’t escape the grind until past 6, so we were stuck waiting for 2.5 hours (even though we were originally quoted 1.5 hours). It was admittedly a little painful, but we persevered without getting overly peeved.

Flour + Water - San Francisco

Bread is available only by request; after our lengthy wait, it was highly necessary! The crusty loaf, with a noticeably doughy interior, was served with grassy olive oil.

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800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria – Pasadena

800 Degrees - Pasadena

It may have taken a few years for 800 Degrees to make its way to The Eastside after debuting back in 2012 in Westwood Village, but as of last Friday night, the “Chipotle of pizza” is officially slangin’ damn good Neapolitan-style pies in Old Pasadena! Hooray!

800 Degrees was created by Chef Anthony Carron, in partnership with Umami Restaurant Group (Umami Burger, Red Medicine, and Umamicatessen) and Allen Ravert.

800 Degrees - Pasadena

The restaurant is housed in an impressive two-story space designed in 1929 by John C. Austin, who was also responsible for Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles City Hall, and the Shrine Auditorium. 800 Degrees fires its pizzas (at 800 degrees, of course!) in a custom Mario Acunto wood-burning brick oven, promising guests “a 125 year-old classic in 60 seconds or less.”

All pizzas are made with Italian “00” flour, fresh mozzarella, imported Italian tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil.

800 Degrees - Pasadena

In addition to pizza pies of all stripes, 800 degrees offers an array of small bites, including an entire section of the menu dedicated to locally made burrata. We thoroughly adored the Prosciutto, melon, and arugula preparation this evening.

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Union – Pasadena

Union - Pasadena

I finally made it to Union for dinner this week, nearly five months after it opened in Old Pasadena. I’ve been following the restaurant’s positive press since the start, but couldn’t quite swing a meal here (walking in at 5:30 PM on Saturday evening was impossible) until now. It was most definitely worth the wait.

Union - Pasadena
Along with partner Marie Petulla, Chef Bruce Kalman has created a boisterous, 50-seat restaurant celebrating Northern Italian cooking using locally-sourced ingredients.

Prior to settling down, Chef Kalman was a James Beard nominated Rising Star Chef, pickle master, and alumnus of Park Avenue Café in New York, Spiaggia in Chicago, The Misfit in Santa Monica, and The Churchill in West Hollywood.

Union - Pasadena

To start, a warm and crusty loaf from Etxea Basque Bakery served with house-made cultured butter sprinkled with coarse salt and damn fine giardiniera ($6). This was deceptively simple and so, so good.

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