In Search of Lunchtime Pasta, from Disappointing to Excellent - Knead & Co., Pasta Sisters, Cento Pasta Bar, Bulgarini, Factory Kitchen and Drago Centro

i hope this isnt a stupid question, but:
is the pecorino cream cheese on that mortadella sandwich cream cheese with pecorino mixed in, or literally cream cheese made from sheep’s milk?

many thanks.

Hi @linus,

Not at all. :slight_smile: It’s a special cream cheese made from sheep’s milk from Italy.

Doin’ work!

Shanxi Noodle House in City of Industry

3 Likes

thanks again. i wonder if they sell it in any of the tonier cheese shops here in l.a. i hope it has that sheepy flavour.

Update 6:

Time for another Pasta Journey, as more and more options started to appear recently. :wink:

Pasta e Pasta by Allegro

Allegro started with their first store in Hyogo, Japan back in 2006. According to their menu, they’ve since expanded up to 12 shops around Japan.

Our dishes arrived with complimentary House Salad and Bread:

The House Salad looked like a typical offering, but their Housemade Onion Dressing was fragrant, bright and delicious! :slight_smile:

Their Bread was warm and tasted like a Sourdough Roll.

Uni Pasta (Allegro Special Rich Uni Cream Sauce with Fresh Uni):

Glancing at the menu, their price was initially surprising - $24 (+ tax & tip) - especially for lunch, but when it arrived we could see why: Their portions are massive. This is easily 300% the size of Cento Pasta Bar and more like 350% the size of a place like Jon & Vinny’s. :open_mouth:

Before getting into the taste, @TheCookie, Sushi Lesson that @PorkyBelly and others were pointing out: If you see Uni that looks like this, you know you should run away. :stuck_out_tongue: :disappointed:

The Uni looked pretty dark and decomposing. Mixing the Uni and trying the Pasta… yup. Old, old, bad seawater tastes flooded my mouth! :weary: :confounded:

This was easily the worst Uni I’ve had in years! :frowning: It was awful. Trying to scoop away the rotting Uni, the incorporated Uni in their Uni Cream Sauce wasn’t any better. The whole thing tasted like funky, pungent ocean water. And the waitress had proclaimed this their #1 Pasta and House Specialty. :sob:

Beef Ragu Sauce Spaghetti (Beef, Onion and Tomato Original Ragu Sauce):

The waitress went on to state that this was their #2 best Pasta, with their Ragu Sauce recipe being over 10 years old (since their inception).

The taste was thankfully much better, but it was watery. :frowning: Their was a good tomatoey flavor, tart, acidic, but also fragrant.

The shocking part was their “Beef” in this Beef Ragu: It turned out they used entire chunks of Beef Short Rib(!). :open_mouth: Normally this might be pretty good - and it was tasty, and tender - but it felt a bit odd eating a Ragu Sauce with massive chunks of Beef Short Ribs that you had to cut and break apart while eating.

Pasta e Pasta doesn’t make their own Pastas; they use dry Pastas bought from Italy.

At $21 (+ tax & tip) this was slightly cheaper, but like their Uni Pasta, it was balanced by the quantity: This was even larger! Easily 400% the size of a plate of Pasta at Cento Pasta Bar! :open_mouth: Any more and it would’ve bordered on Bucca di Beppo Family Style Platters.

Currently, I’m not sure we’d return to Pasta e Pasta. It’s a good value for the quantity / price, but the execution is lacking.

Pasta e Pasta by Allegro
432 E. 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (213) 265-7003

Maccheroni Republic

For some reason, we’ve just never gotten around to stopping by Maccheroni Republic, but we finally made it for this Pasta Journey. :slight_smile:

Maccheroni Republic handmakes all of their Pastas, but it’s done at an off-site kitchen and delivered to the restaurant as needed.

Agnolotti di Osso Bucco (Tortelloni filled with Osso Bucco Meat & Marrow in a Salsa Verde):

This came strongly recommended by our waiter. He proudly stated that this was “one of our best pastas!” So we decided to order it.

I’m not sure why their menu lists this as Agnolotti, and then describes it as Tortelloni, but either way, they were too al dente: Slightly undercooked(!), they were too thick, and it tasted like we were biting into uncooked dough. :frowning:

The Osso Bucco was fine, nicely seasoned. But their “Salsa Verde” wasn’t that interesting. The waiter said it was like a Pesto, but not quite. :confused:

Rigatoni Pom’Amore (Rigatoni in a Creamy Tomato Sauce topped with Burrata):

Their Rigatoni were slightly better: Still very al dente, with a lot of chew. Their Creamy Tomato Sauce was OK. I think this would be a fine local lunch spot, if you didn’t want to go very far. But it lacked the depth of flavor and refinement of other places we tried on this Pasta Journey.

But with their Pastas ranging from $10.95 - $17.95 (+ tax & tip) it’s a nice affordable, local spot, with Handmade Pastas.

Maccheroni Republic
332 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Tel: (213) 346-9725

http://www.maccheronirepublic.com/index.html

Local Kitchen + Wine Bar

I’d never heard about this place, but thanks to @ipsedixit and @CiaoBob’s exploration into Chicken, we decided to give it a try. :slight_smile: While we went there to try their Chicken, it turns out they also have Handmade Pastas, so this fit nicely in our journey.

Brussels Sprouts (Agrodolce, Citrus Breadcrumbs):

We decided to start with some Brussels Sprouts. These were quite delicious, nice and citrusy, with a good textural contrast with the crunchy Breadcrumbs and the tender, yet firm Brussels Sprouts. :slight_smile:

Pappardelle (Prosciutto and Veal Bolognese, Parmesan):

Their Bolognese Sauce had a good, long-stewed flavor coming through. It was comforting and tasty, not too salty, even though they use Prosciutto in the Sauce. However, it lacked that deep flavor that exudes from the best Bolognese Sauces we had on this journey, like Pasta Sisters, Bulgarini and Cento.

Also, their Pappardelle (while not using Semolina) was just too soft and overcooked. :frowning:

Pecorino Malfatti (Black Truffle, Black Pepper, Brown Butter, Sage):

We knew there was something wrong when this Pasta featuring “Black Truffles” was the cheapest Pasta on the menu(!). :open_mouth: Something seemed off.

Then it arrived, and the Black Truffles looked very odd. Taking a sniff, there was zero scent. Taking a bite, and there was no flavor from the Black Truffles. :cry:

Clearly these are probably the fake Chinese Black Truffles, or something else. :frowning:

The Malfatti were decent, doughy Pasta dumplings, sort of like Gnocchi; very soft, and plump.

Ricotta Cavatelli (Blue Lump Crab, Lemon, Chile, Parsley, Breadcrumbs):

This was delicious! :slight_smile: Much better than their Pappardelle and Malfatti, their Cavatelli was still soft, but it wasn’t overcooked like their Pappardelle. They gave ample amounts of their Blue Lump Crab. It wasn’t fresh Crab (but understandable given costs), but the Lump Crab meat was still tasty enough.

Chicken Under Brick (Balsamic-Chile Glaze, Charred Onions and Peppers, Jus):

But the reason we originally came here was for their Chicken Under Brick. As it arrived, it smelled wonderful, with the Balsamic Chile Glaze, fragrant and pungent even before I took a bite. While most of the skin wasn’t crispy (I’m used to Brick Chicken dishes with crispy skin), it was cooked / pressed enough to render out all the fat.

But @CiaoBob and @ipsedixit were right: This was delicious! :slight_smile: The flavors were a nice balance of piquant, savory-saltiness, Balsamic undertones, the use of Oven-Roasted Shishito Peppers was wonderful! :slight_smile:

Their Lunch Pastas range from $15 - $23, reflective of the neighborhood / rent. We’d go back for their Brick Chicken, Veggie Plates and maybe their Cavatelli. I’m curious how their Pizzas are as we noticed a nice wood-burning pizza oven.

Local Kitchen + Wine Bar
1736 Ocean Park Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Tel: (310) 396-9007

http://localkitchenandwinebar.com/

Rose Cafe (Venice) (Revisit)

We quite enjoyed Chef Jason Neroni’s (Superba) Handmade Pastas from our last visit, so we wanted to try some other Pastas we missed last time.

The Rose Breakfast Burrito (Scrambled Eggs, Smoked Cheddar, Peanut-Poblano Molé, Crispy Potatoes, Braised Bacon, Avocado):

Before the Pasta, we took a detour, remembering someone on FTC (@wienermobile?) recommending their Breakfast Burrito. :slight_smile:

This was hefty! A massive portion, it had all of the Breakfast favorites - Eggs, Crisped Potatoes, Bacon, Smoked Cheddar, Avocado - but what set it apart was the use of their Peanut-Poblano Mole Sauce. It gave the Breakfast Burrito a touch of nuttiness and sweetness (just a bit), with some spiciness as well. :slight_smile:

Wakame Spaghetti (Dungeness Crab, Uni Butter, Yuzu, Scallions):

I’m not sure if it’s just micro-trends, or restaurants inspired by each other, but Crab Pastas seem to have been sprouting up all over the place, with Rose Cafe being another place offering it as well.

The Spaghetti was perfectly cooked, al dente, with a nice chew, but still pliable and tender enough. The Dungeness Crab was better quality than the Blue Lump Crab at Local Kitchen, but it still tasted like frozen Crab. At least it was better than Bestia’s Spaghetti Rustichella with Dungeness Crab (which runs about $38 for wholesale bought, dry pasta, and frozen Crab that tasted briny and old):

That was the worst of the Crab Pastas we had recently. :frowning:

Rose Cafe’s version was quite tasty overall, the best one locally, but we were spoiled by the recent Fresh Dungeness Crab Pasta we had at Cotogna, where they cook the Dungess Crabs and deshell them for the pasta(!).

For Rose Cafe’s Lunch Pastas, we enjoyed their Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe the most; a great place to grab pastas in the area. :slight_smile:

Rose Cafe
220 Rose Ave.
Venice, CA 90291
Tel: (310) 399-0711

http://rosecafevenice.com/

Angelini Osteria (Revisit)

"Nonna Elvira’s" Lasagna Verde (Beef, Veal Ragu):

The striking green color is the first thing that catches my eye. But then taking a bite, it’s delicious! :blush: Layers of Pasta, Cheese, Beef & Veal Ragu. It’s got that perfect balance of meatiness, a delicious Ragu that’s well-seasoned, and just the right amount of Cheese. Thanks @ipsedixit for the recommendation. :slight_smile:

After the disaster of the Fake Black Truffles at Local, I was wondering if Black Truffles at this time were just “bad”; perhaps Local was just suffering from a bad batch that’s plaguing all of Southern California? Seeing Angelini offer a Black Truffle Pasta, we had to find out.

Homemade Spaghetti Chitarra alla Norcina, Black Truffles, Sausage, Parmigiano Reggiano:

As soon as the waiter brought out an entire Black Truffle and started shaving it fresh over our plate, we could smell this amazing, unmistakable fragrant scent! :blush:

Then taking a long inhale - wow! Complete night and day difference. Angelini is using Umbrian Black Truffles (Umbria, Italy).

Taking a bite, amazing! :blush: Fantastic, deep Black Truffle flavor and scent in every single bite of this Pasta. Yah, whatever Local Kitchen was using was something else entirely.

Their Handmade Spaghetti Chitarra is a thinner version of the traditional Spaghetti, but not as thin as Angel Hair. It was delicate, soft, but not overcooked. The Sausage felt like overkill, however, unnecessary to enjoy the beauty of the Umbrian Black Truffles.

Angelini’s Pastas have the depth of flavor and nuance that’s missing in places like Maccheroni Republic, but their prices are significantly higher as well. The Lasagne Verde was $20 (+ tax & tip) while their seasonal Black Truffle Pasta was a whopping $55 (+ tax & tip) for lunch.

Overall, some excellent Pastas for lunch, but at a premium.

Angelini Osteria
7313 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
Tel: (323) 297-0070

http://www.angeliniosteria.com/

Bulgarini Gelato (Revisit)

With the weather warming up, it was a perfect time to revisit Bulgarini Gelato, for their amazing, unparalleled Gelato, but also for their fantastic Handmade Pastas & Sauces that most customers don’t seem to realize they serve.

Owner Leo Bulgarini excitedly lets us know that he just got in some wonderful Sheep’s Milk Ricotta from Rome, Italy. He said it’s his favorite Ricotta, and he was finally able to get some in stock. :slight_smile: So we let him prepare something for us:

Roman Ricotta Spaghetti:

As basic as it sounds, Leo Bulgarini asked us to trust him, and he served his Roman Sheep’s Milk Ricotta, warmed through, simply tossed with his Handmade Spaghetti.

It was delicious! :heart:

The Sheep’s Milk Ricotta was light, delicate, giving each bite a creamy, lightly pungent cheesiness that Sheep’s Milk Cheeses can impart; just spot-on perfect. :slight_smile:

Pappardelle Bolognese:

Like his amazing Gelato, Leo Bulgarini creates some wonderfully focused Pasta Sauces. There’s something beautiful, elemental, and simply amazing in the way he can create a pure concentration of great flavor (be it Gelato or Pasta Sauce)!

It’s absolutely delicious! :blush:

Our friend came along, and tried Bulgarini’s Pastas for the first time today, and was completely blown away. And his Pastas are cooked a perfect al dente.

Crimson Pear Gelato:

It’s ridiculous how concentrated and pure his Gelato are. The Crimson Pear Gelato tastes like you’re eating a bushel of Crimson Pears perfectly ripe, and fragrant, distilled into a frozen bite of deliciousness! :blush:

Stracciatella (Chocolate Chip) Gelato:

A beautiful balance of a creamy Milk-based Gelato, mixed with quality Dark Chocolate chopped up. So good! :slight_smile:

Nocciola (Hazelnut) Gelato:

Absurd.

I have never experienced Gelato or Ice Cream that has such a pure distillation of the core ingredient before. Ever. His Nocciola Gelato tastes like you’re eating a bunch of fragrant roasted Hazelnuts, except in awesome frozen Gelato form. :blush:

Bulgarini Gelato is now offering a Lunch Special where you get an order of any of his Handmade Pastas + 2 Scoops of Gelato for $20, which is a bargain! :slight_smile:

(Note: If you’re going early, be sure to call ahead to confirm if they’re open - They’ve been known to open slightly late from their posted hours.)

Bulgarini Gelato
749 E. Altadena Drive
Altadena, CA 91001
Tel: (626) 791-6174

http://bulgarinigelato.com/index.php

Gjelina

I had completely spaced out that Gjelina offers up a variety of Handmade Pastas for Lunch! So off we went to relax along Abbot Kinney and try some Pastas. :slight_smile:

Roasted Romanesco (Anchovy, Caper, Mint):

There’s something special, truly magic with the way Chef-Owner Travis Lett and his staff at Gjelina can transform Vegetables into something stunning. Their Roasted Romanesco is tender, bursting with flavors from their Caper, Mint and perfect roasting. The Anchovy adds that wonderful nudge of umami and brininess. So good! :slight_smile:

Semolina Fusilli (Hokkaido Uni, Little Neck Clams, Garlic, Chili):

There’s something really neat about Gjelina incorporating seasonal ingredients, and exotic ingredients, and in this case, the Hokkaido Uni is creamy, gorgeous and a complete 180 from the near-rotting Uni at Pasta e Pasta Allegro. It’s bright and tastes fresh, and the Little Neck Clams add nice brininess that accents the Uni. :slight_smile:

But their Handmade Fusilli is just a bit too rustic and thick. It’s perfectly cooked through and al dente, but fundamentally it’s just very rustic (very handmade), and rough-hewn. It feels like the ingredients would’ve shined better with a more delicate Pasta. Otherwise, quite delicious. :slight_smile:

Einkorn Bucatini (Nettle, Chili, Garlic, Parmesan):

Wow! Also made in-house, the Einkorn Bucatini is using an ancient grain (Einkorn Wheat), and there’s a subtle grain / almost nutty quality. It’s perfectly cooked al dente, with a nice bite, but beyond that, the flavors are just wonderfully balanced.

Stinging Nettle, really fragrant Garlic, a little bit of heat from the Chilies, and judicious use of Parmesan. When mixed together, it’s just balanced and so delicious! :heart:

@MaladyNelson this one’s a must order! :slight_smile:

Gjelina’s Pastas usually run about $20 - $22 (+ tax & tip) during Lunch, and along with their amazing Cooked Vegetable dishes, it makes it one of our favorite places for lunch. :slight_smile:

Gjelina
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291
Tel: (310) 450-1429

http://www.gjelina.com/

14 Likes

I am betting those cheapo truffles came out of a can!! Truffles from China would be an upgrade.

1 Like

@Chowseeker1999 Fantastic, as always! Thanks for being so detailed and diligent.

1 Like

Hi @aaqjr,

I thought you were joking at first, but Googling… wow, they actually sell canned truffles?! :open_mouth:

1 Like

even with good uni, uni pasta shouldn’t be that watery IMO. gak.

1 Like

I liked the 2 pastas you had at Local as well as the Brick Chicken.
Agree that the noodle on the pappardelle doesn’t have much chew but I don’t expect that from fresh papardelle - it’s too wide and flat to be al dente.

1 Like

Hi @attran99,

Thanks. :slight_smile: Hope you get to try out some of these places.

1 Like

Hi @CiaoBob,

Yah that Cavatelli was pretty tasty. :slight_smile: Good point about a fresh Pappardelle.

And thanks again for the rec on the Chicken Under Brick. :slight_smile:

Does Bulgarini make pasta throughout their business hours or only sometimes?
The times I have been - usually after dinner somewhere in SGV - they do not appear to be in Pasta Making Mode (though I admit - as I am usually stuffed to the gills with Chinese food - I never inquire about the pasta). I say this because there is usually one person, maybe two, who seem like gelato servers not pasta makers - but maybe I am not vetting them extremely enough.

Hi @CiaoBob,

Yes, they serve Pasta at anytime throughout their business hours.

And as you noted, most of the times they only have 1 or 2 people working. They’ll start the pasta order and manage to serve others for gelato.

If you want to make absolutely sure, call ahead, and also let them know you’re coming in for pasta; should be fine.

2 Likes

I’ve just walked on in and asked for pasta. Leo will work the gelato, and his assistant will handle the pasta. I need to go in for the pistachio gelato…but I’m stuck in soccer purgatory this weekend.

1 Like

If Leo is in, and you ask, pasta WILL appear…

1 Like

If Leo is not in, I just leave.

That’s too bad about Pasta e Pasta since I walk by it somewhat frequently. I might pass on trying their mentaiko pasta.

The einkorn bucatini from Gjelina looks so perfect! It’s a funny coincidence since my favorite pizza from Gjelina Take Away had that same combination of ingredients: nettle, chili, garlic, and Parmesan.

Thanks for experiencing the high and lows of pasta in LA for us, @Chowseeker1999. I always appreciate your extraordinary efforts.

3 Likes

How does this Japanese chain compare to Spoon House in Gardena (if you know)?