37 E Union St
Pasadena, CA 91103
Dining date: 2/15/15
I often think of Pasadena as a city of chain restaurants (albeit the good chain restaurants), and that relatively conservative palates make it hard for unique chef-driven concepts to thrive here. That may not be true, but there haven’t been many that have tried in the city. Union is one of the more interesting openings in some time, where chef Bruce Kalman (Urbano Pizza, The Churchill) is cooking up seasonal farm-to-table Californian-Italian fare. I’ve never been to The Churchill, though I’d been to Urbano many times and still kind of miss it.
Since the restaurant opened last March, I’ve heard plenty of good things about it including being named LA Mag’s second best restaurant opening of 2014. That, combined with my experiences at Urbano, made Union high on my list of restaurants to try. But, I just never quite got the final impetus to go until I was invited in this past weekend.
Loved this chalk art showing how serious they are about their ingredients.
1710 Silver Lake Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Dining date: 1/29/15
Alimento has gained plenty of praise as one of the best new LA restaurant openings in 2014 (see LA Mag, LA Weekly, and GQ). Opened in June, it’s been on my list for some time and I finally got a chance to stop in.
Alimento is on an exciting corner of Silver Lake, just a few steps away from the likes of L&E Oyster Bar, Milk, and LAMILL Coffee. It happened to be dineLa Restaurant Week when we stopped in and the restaurant was offering a special menu of three courses (two choices at each course) for $30. We ended up ordering one of those fixed menus, supplementing it with a few a la carte items.
3595 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Dining date: 1/24/15
Giada De Laurentiis’ first restaurant was one of Las Vegas’ biggest openings of 2014 and part of the new Cromwell hotel. De Laurentiis is one of the biggest celebrity chefs out there, and this being her first/only restaurant was sure to be hotly anticipated and draw visitors from all over. Seven months after opening, I was one of those people.
Love & Salt
317 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Dining date: 1/19/15
Love & Salt opened in November in what is a renewed and thriving dining scene in Manhattan Beach (M.B. Post, Fishing with Dynamite, Strand House, Little Sister and Akatora are other notable openings in the past few years). Michael Fiorelli, previously of mar’sel in Palos Verdes’ Terranea, is the chef behind the concept – Italian with Californian accents, made with plenty of love and salt.
The space is beautiful with an open kitchen, a mini chef’s counter, and a large communal table at center.
The menu has plenty to offer from a bread, cheese, and salumi selection to a handful of savory snacks, small plates, pizzas, pastas and large format proteins. We made our way through each section of the menu, ordering one or two from each (except the large plates).
Via della Purificazione 20
00187 Rome, Italy
Dining date: 10/24/14
While researching for restaurants to try in Rome, we came across this place – Osteria Barberini. It had very strong reviews everywhere we looked, including being a top 50 restaurant on TripAdvisor (4.5 stars on over 1700 reviews) and holding 4.5 stars on Yelp. The restaurant touts its truffle menus (especially as white truffles were in season) and reviews raved about the truffle dishes. Was exactly what we were looking for. We attempted to make a reservation and found dinner completely booked, however we were able to squeeze in a late lunch table.
Osteria Barberini’s menu has a lot of classic Italian favorites within its antipasti, primi, and secondi areas of the menu. However, there is an additional category featuring dishes using black and white truffles. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call them cheap, truffles (particularly white) were significantly cheaper in Italy compared to prices in the U.S. We first noticed this during our first night at Da Francesco, but Osteria Barberini’s pricing was also reasonable with white truffle dishes in the low-€20s and black truffle dishes in the mid-teens. We focused in on the truffle dishes (while in Rome!) and ordered a couple of items off the regular menu.
Piazza del Fico 29
00186 Rome, Italy
Dining date: 10/22/14 and 10/24/14
The first…and last…dinner in Rome was here at Da Francesco. While walking around the Piazza Navona area, we found this restaurant on Yelp. Located just east of the piazza, it had positive reviews and pictures with raves of a black truffle pasta. While I’m not always so trusting of Yelp, the pictures looked great and the prices reasonable (few dishes reach €20).
The menu is fairly extensive featuring everything from classic Italian appetizers to pastas, pizzas and heartier main courses. Porcini mushrooms were in season and a highlight on the menu (with the bounty displayed at the front of the restaurant). Menu and staff were also pretty English-friendly. We actually enjoyed the meal so much on our first evening that we returned on our last night to give a few more items a try.