I went on a “vacation” only a few miles away from home recently. A friend was house sitting in Pasadena and even though it was only 20 miles away, I felt as if I was hundreds of miles from my life in Los Angeles. I learned that even a small change of environment for a short time can have magically restorative results, especially when paired with good friends and good food.

Mi Piace was always on my list of places to try, but it was also on my list of “have not made it there yet” until this week. In the heart of Old Town Pasadena, it is the quintessential New York Italian restaurant (in California). It’s in a beautiful classic space with high ceilings, patio tables, and white tablecloths, all of which add to the old world charm while maintaining a Californian casual vibe. Since I ate with another former New Yorker (who also took all the pictures since I forgot both my camera and my phone), and a California native, this was the perfect choice for a bit of both worlds.

We started with the cream of corn special soup which had a sweet rich flavor enhanced with a drizzle of truffle oil, a bit of pico de gallo and avocado. Since this soup had no cream, it was actually much lighter than it looked and the combination of textures added a nice contrast to the smooth puree of corn.

I had the spinach salad, made with Michigan tart dried cherries, California goat cheese, fresh strawberries and candied pecans, tossed with an apple cider balsamic dressing. This was one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten! The pairing of the goat cheese, strawberries, cherries and pecans was not only inspired and artful, but absolutely delicious. I never would have believed these ingredients would compliment each other as well as they did until I took a bite and finished the entire 12″ plate!

Every one’s favorite dish of the night was the spicy shrimp appetizer, made with garlic, red onion, white wine and chili flakes, served on a bed of fettuccine. This dish was perfectly executed (sorry the pic is fuzzy). So good that we all could not resist taking more bites even after we got our main courses.

Spinach was my theme for the evening, as I segued to the spinach and goat cheese gnocchi in a marinara sauce that was as bright and fresh as the picture suggests. The gnocchi were light and filling, a great choice for vegetarians, it was served with caramelized garlic and roasted ricotta.

The Carbonara was equally well executed, with bits of pancetta and baby peas. A very nice touch was that they use organic egg for this classic dish.

The Spaghetti alla pina brimmed with mussels and clams in a spicy tomato sauce. It was tasty, but not as outstanding as the shrimp appetizer in terms of spiciness and flavor.

Since we went on a Tuesday, we were treated to the Tuesday night special of 25% off a bottle of wine!

Only one of us was able to find room for dessert, a chocolate soup souffle made with Belgian bittersweet chocolate, and served with Chantilly cream and ripe strawberries. I tasted a teeny bit and that alone was enough to send me into a chocolate sugar coma!

All together, with the wine, soft drinks, appetizers, main courses, dessert and a double espresso, the three of us ate for about $55 each. As Arnold would say, “We’ll be back”, and next time I will bring my camera!

Mi Piace on Urbanspoon