Sep 2014

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.

Union - Pasadena

Christina, my lovely date for the evening, insisted on the pork meatballs ($13), and I’m so glad she did. Served with toasted bread and enrobed in a zesty San Marzano tomato sauce with caper berries, the meatballs were plump, tender, and satisfying.

Union - Pasadena

Next up was the polenta ($15), a super-rich and super-smooth cast iron skillet-full of the stuff topped with sauteed maitake and chanterelle mushrooms, sage, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The Pedro Ximnez vinegar kept most of the richness in check.

Union - Pasadena

Moving to the “Field” section of the menu, we shared the black mission figs ($13) brushed with honey and topped with toasted sprigs of rosemary. House-made ricotta added the fabulous finishing touch.

Union - Pasadena

And then there were roasted carrots ($9) with orange blossom honey, rosemary, and pink peppercorns. Summer sweetness.

Union - Pasadena

Since Christina and I are both pretty much obsessed with noodles, we decided to go all-out and order all four pastas on the menu.

First up, and quite possibly my favorite, was the Spaghetti alla Chitarra ($14), handmade spaghetti in a San Marzano tomato sauce with garlic and Fresno chili. The texture of the noodles was perfect, while the straightforward sauce seduced.

Union - Pasadena

We also dug the Squid Ink Garganelli ($21) dressed up with sweet lobster, fennel, Meyer lemon, and truffle butter. I loved how the truffle butter sauce clung to the noodles’ toothsome ridges.

Union - Pasadena

The tagliatelle ($16) with pork “head & shoulder” ragu was the richest of the bunch, but the gremolata atop the pasta and and a shot of vinegar in the sauce made for a well balanced bowl.

Union - Pasadena

And finally, beautiful orecchiette ($16) with Weiser Farms eggplant, tomato, guanciale, goat feta, and two varieties of basil. The awesome texture of the orecchiette rivaled that of the spaghetti.

Union - Pasadena

For dessert, Pastry Chef Crystal Espinoza treated us to a trio of sensational delights.

The sweet and slightly savory Gianduja chocolate budino with cocoa nib, truffle salt, and Ligurian olive oil hit it out of the ballpark for me. The Astronomer doesn’t call me Puddin’ for nothin’!

Union - Pasadena

Christina adored the downright silky lemon verbena panna cotta with balsamic pickled strawberries and biscotti base.

Union - Pasadena

We both agreed that the olive oil cake was great, especially with the accompanying nectarine and peach compote and honeycomb gelato.

Dear Union, thank you so much for opening in Pasadena! I will be back for more of your amazing pastas and to test drive your house-made charcuterie. Sorry it took me so long to get here. Love, Cathy

Union
37 East Union Street
Pasadena, CA 91103
Phone: 626-795-5841

Dear, sweet Pasadena:

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3 thoughts on “Union – Pasadena

  1. I’ve been four times now and every time I’ve had the pickles/butter and the meatballs. Two of my favorite dishes I have ever had in Pasadena.

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