East Colorado Avenue, Pasadena, November 22, 2014—ANOTHER ITALIAN RESTAURANT tonight, because unprogrammed curiosity is a moral weakness. And tonight's proved to be one of the best places we've sampled lately, with setting, service, menu, and execution on a uniformly high level: absolutely nothing to criticize.
After a well-made Martini, we began with bread and olive oil — bread made in house, with a nice texture and flavor, nothing stupendous, but utterly fresh and generous, with a very good Tuscan-style olive oil.
Next, "chickpea panelle": (lemon, Ragusano) in parentheses on the menu after the listing. These were an Italian (probably Ligurian) kind of panisse, chickpea-flour-and-soft-cheese lozenges, fried of course, dusted with grated cheese and served with a lemon wedge. The perfect is the enemy of the good, they say; it was perhaps too bad we'd had the fava purée first; but these panelle were very good indeed, soft and subtle inside, crusty and alert outside.
I went on to carne cruda: hanger steak, pounded paper-thin with one of those bossed tenderizing hammers (this is a guess), garnished with a scatter of parmesan shavings and urled scallion greens, then drizzled with that good olive oil, and judiciously salted. I've never had a dish quite like it: not tartare, not bresaola. Utterly clean and wholesome and delicious.
Dessert was a "bittersweet chocolate crostata" with hazelnuts and salted rosemary caramel. The rosemary was, thankfully, very discreet indeed, the merest hint. The chocolate pudding was as silky and unctuous as the fava purée had been, a nice reference back to the beginning of the meal.
And after that we had a tortino — I'd have called it a little pie-cake — filled with pears that had been poached in red wine, and prune purée, and topped with lemon-flavored whipped cream, in a very nice pastry shell — a dessert referring to many others but staking out rather its own territory, and a delicious thing.
We really liked this place. The service was professional, friendly, and discreet; the wine list was interesting; the food, we thought, impeccable. We will return.
Cannonau, Argiolas (Sardegna), 2012: true varietal, rich but not powerful, very pleasant•Sotto, 9575 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles; (310) 277-0210