Category Archives: Pasta

Casa Bianca, Eagle Rock

Pizza, pasta, and more. Casa Bianca prides itself with the best and freshest of ingredients handmade and always made to order. And so when given a few tips before I dared investigate, I went with much gusto to this location where the long line  have always tickled my curiosity. It must be that good, eh?

Italian food and chefs are sometimes defined by how good your red sauce is, but I went in with a better plan of attack: spaghetti carbonara with pancetta, eggplant parmigiana sandwich, cheese pizza with anchovies, and a side salad. WHEW! And only for two people. I called it in and opted for pick-up. After all, I want to experience the food and not the wait. Still, it would take them almost an hour because of the massive orders they have, and probably the reason why they only open at 4pm, and even closed Sundays and Mondays.


The spaghetti carbonara was (hold the boos and the hatred) “disappointing” (currently at my nicest). The pancetta was hard and dry, clearly overcooked. I missed the salty, fatty, yet ironically somewhat tender bite to it. There was salt, believe me, but the rest were simply on vacation. The spaghetti was al dente, hard to accomplish when it’s on a to-go container, steaming continuously until released from its vessel. There was absolutely no creamy aftertaste, which I was expecting from a carbonara. NO, not like an alfredo, but theirs tasted more like oil and rendered bacon grease than anything else. AND let us not forget the overly GENEROUS helping of basil. I know it is a staple Italian herb, but it was fresh and all from a former life. Laying on top of my pasta was a lifeless, limp, and almost BLACK shreds with absolutely nothing to add but an assault of basil taste that overpowered my tongue. It might be good, I guess, to hide the disappointments in the dish. But still, one hopes to turn this frown upside down.

From the confused to the aggressive we go. If my pasta didn’t know what it wanted to be (salty, bland, herbaceous), we come to the pizza: SALTY.  But I slightly understand, I do have a heart. Their regular style is thin crust, and with only salty cheese and salty anchovies as my toppings, of course the SALT ASSAULT was a given. But I did not expect it to be this much of a kidney battery. Thank you Casa Bianca for giving me so much anchovies, I appreciate the heavy hand but I am sure that my kidneys do not. Let us move on.

And so we come to the clear winner of the night: Joe’s eggplant parmigiana sandwich. A forgotten part of their menu, the lesser popular item, the unexpected order. The eggplant was breaded lightly but the batter clung to it like there’s no tomorrow. The cheese was melted and stringy, not wanting to let go of the rest of the team. It was really all for one and one for all, on flavor and texture. The bread held up well and so it was not hard to devour the savory and crunchy goodness.

Being my own critic, it might have been my fault having veered away from the spaghetti and meatballs, or the fettucine alfredo. But Italian food is more than the red, green, or white sauce. It should be made more famous to the masses for other dishes it can offer. But even the pizza was a “disappointment”, at a PIZZA PIE place. But I will not stop trying this place over and over again. So maybe I will a find a dish I would love to go back for, and maybe even wait in line for an hour.

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Filed under Italian Food, Pasta, Pizza, Sandwich

Viva Las Vegas Day Three- Carnival Buffet at the Rio

So after a night of over-indulging of many, many, many, never-ending diuretics, we definitely needed some carbs and protein in generous variety. We failed at agreeing as to where to do Sunday Brunch Buffet so with the help of friends already waiting in line we moved on to the Carnival World Buffet at the Rio.

After waiting in line for an hour we finally made it inside and didn’t even bother to warm the seats. Here comes plate #1.

I proceeded to chew. The chow mein were hard and cold, an expected disappointment. The shu mai were also hard and cold. The turkey sausage from the breakfast line was salty and cold. The har gow was a better bite as they just came off their steamers, were still hot, and filled with plump shrimp.

Seeing as my plate looked nowhere near empty, I knew I needed more than a taste here and there. So I went for plate #2. The fried catfish was actually pretty good. The batter was light and crunchy, with a touch of Cajun seasoning as well as salt and pepper. The fish inside was still warm and flaky. I also wanted eggs with my mimosa to complete the brunch’s plated environment. This was not egg. And no, I do not consider boxed, diluted eggs ideal. The pork sausage was a little too salty even for sausage standards, but had a good snap and was surprisingly still warm on the inside. But the best part of my plate was the prime rib. With a perfectly salty crust on the outside and a tender, medium rare meat. I needed no assistance from my knife as my fork did the job just fine. I thought two slices were more than enough but I was proved wrong. But there were more to come so I had to make room for plate #3.

I was really on my way for desserts but for some reason I wanted to walk around some more. I saw a friend waiting for the roasted duck that’s still sitting on the chopping board waiting for the butcher’s knife to strike. I had to try it. Feeling the plate so empty with just one piece of duck, I had to get some more carbs with it, and pasta seemed to be the untried dish of the whole vacation. The pasta was overcooked but the bolognese was well-seasoned and packed with flavor; subtle hints of thyme, garlic, basil, with a touch of spicy-most likely cayenne. The duck was unexpectedly good. It was glistening with the good oils, crispy skin, and the fat in between melted in my mouth. The meat was cooked perfectly with a balance of salty and sweet. Delicious.

I knew I had room inside my stomach for sweets. After all, their spread looked so enticing I felt my feet flying effortless towards their display. The cheesecake was sour. And it wasn’t a lime cheesecake. The gelato had to be tried. The tiramisu was actually bland, and did not taste a tiramisu at all. It had a very indescribable after-taste. The coconut gelato was actually ahead of both, although the coconut tasted like the syrup vs the fresh one, but an artificial taste more comparable to the real one. Moving on again.

But of course, I will not leave without my own version of my bread pudding. Bread pudding, topped with vanilla ice cream this time and hot chocolate fudge drizzled all around. Their pudding is less dense as the Hilton’s but with more cinnamon and vanilla flavor. And the chocolate fudge was still warm and sweet, elevating this humble plate to a masterpiece inside my mouth. Delicious indeed. I’m sorry, I really can’t help but brag about my sugar overload.

Whew. I didn’t think I would survive outside of the buffet. The mimosas were overflowing and the food was gluttony at it’s worst. But the prime rib, duck, and bread pudding were all worth coming back and waiting in line for an hour. In fact, I would get multiple servings of each, and even with only these three I would chew without regret. Ignoring the rest of the hundreds of dishes will not be a painful undertaking.

Goodbye Vegas. Until I see you again, which will be soon. After all, over-indulgence is a magnetic pull hard to resist. And everything in Vegas is evident of excess.

 

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Filed under American Food, Beef, Breakfast, Buffet, Chinese Food, Dessert, Drinks, Duck, Dumplings, Fish, Gelato, Noodles, Pasta, Sausages, Shrimp

Palermo’s Italian Restaurant, Covina

I rarely go to Italian restaurants nowadays unless a very strong craving hits that only long thin noodles can satisfy. Italian dishes tend to be heavy, and almost the same taste and consistency.  If you like their marinara then it’s enough to assume you’ve tasted every single marinara dish in the house or marinara paired with a pasta; spaghetti, fettuccine, ravioli, penne, etc. And so when given an invite to change my mind, why not? But driving all the way to Covina? IDTS. For some reason I was convinced that this place will not disappoint me. It might have helped when my friends said we can bring in our own wine. So I starved for about a few hours and got ready for an assured boredom.

This place is easy to miss, if not vigilant. We passed it twice before we found the place. We waited for about 20min before we got seated. It’s a fairly small place and so I was still on the fence when I saw a packed house. Either the place is too small or the food is really that good.








 

 

 

The menu is simple and the prices are reasonable. The wait staff were very helpful, opening our wine bottle and giving us wine glasses even though this place does not serve alcohol (that’s a plus-knowing your customer’s needs and wants). We saw some more promising specials on their menu board and proceeded to salivate.

We ordered a large half cheese and half sausage pizza, the shrimp scampi special, spaghetti with meatballs, cheese ravioli with meat sauce, and an antipasti salad. And we were expecting the garlic knots to come soon, as we’ve been eying our neighbor’s table for a few minutes now. They were glistening pieces of buttery and garlicky goodness.

Tap tap tap. The sound of my fork hitting the table seconds only after we ordered. The smell inside the restaurant was a killer, it was so euphoric, so good, that my stomach started complaining loudly.

The crust was neither too think nor thin, more like confused between a Chicago and a New York pizza. It was a little oily but what can you expect from pizza? And for the same calories you can actually get this one hand-made with house-made sauce and sausages. Beat that delivery boy. Good, good, goodness.

The salad came glistening with their house vinaigrette. You would think a chemist carefully measured this today, a good combination: sweet, sour, and peppery. Best part were the rolled cold cuts of salami, ham, and turkey. How can you say no to that?

The garlic rolls came and they were oily, garlicky, crunchy outside-soft inside, balls of perfection. Calorie-laden rolls,  I am guilty as charged. We were right, these were goodness, gracious, great balls of garlic fire.

The shrimp scampi came, and we awed in the aroma of the garlic. Sauteed fresh vegetables with plump, juicy shrimp. The noodles were cooked al dente, which gives it that extra bite I look for in good pasta. This was a good promise of the next pasta dishes to come.

When I think of Italian food I immediately assume spaghetti with meatballs, just like what mom used to make. It was my favorite pseudo-Italian memory. And so I was giggly when this plate came out. Again with the perfectly cooked pasta, and a huge, fist-sized meatball. You know you’re in the midst of “bene” chefs when the pasta is infused with so much flavor from the marinara. This only happens when the pasta is sauteed in the sauce for a couple of minutes before serving VS just dumping the sauce onto cooked pasta on a plate. This plate rivals that of my mom’s, my own, or even of my favorite go-to places. Delicious.

Now this plate was just okay. We already had so much marina from the spaghetti and the pizza that we made poor choice of ordering this with meat sauce as well. Bright side is the sausage, with a good snap from the natural casing, and a well-seasoned filling of meats.

Voyaging this way just for Italian food is worth it.  It may not be often, but every now and then should do the trick of satisfying even the most over-used foodie/blogger palates. In fact, I’m already planning my next visit. If you would like to come with me, go ahead and post your comments. As I did, wipe away your doubts and lower down your raised eyebrows. You will not be disappointed.

 

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Filed under Bread, Italian Food, Noodles, Pasta, Pizza, Salad, Sausages, Shrimp

Savoy Kitchen, Alhambra

Full house. There’s about 5 or so names written on that stand outside the door. No maitre de, no hostess, no welcoming smiles. Paper without even lines on it. Write your name, how many in your party, and wait. Savoy Kitchen in Alhambra may not have the biggest dining room, or the most posh of furniture, or the most elaborate menu. But, since 1982, Savoy has been serving the best Hainan Chicken Rice you will ever find in anywhere (at least for now).

The place is small, with only a bar with limited stools, a dining area and a patio to assist the crowd that may form outside, especially during lunch time. The service is fast and efficient, with food coming out of the kitchen after a few minutes of ordering. They serve free pizza bread that can get you addicted if not careful. The sweet iced tea is unlimited, so are the condiments that come if you order their chicken, and you should.

The menu is full of enticing appetizers and entrees. Their baked escargot with herb butter is glistening with indulgence. Their pizzas are made with original potato dough made fresh daily, and comes with toppings such as butter herb shrimp, smoked beef, and smoked duck. Their pastas are also as unique, with pairings like conch and prosciutto mixed with fettuccine and your choice of tomato or garlic (garlic, white wine, olive oil, and butter) sauce. They’re also famous for their curry; Malaysian style with herbs, spices, coconut milk, and a dozen different fruits and vegetables. Pick your meat of choice; chicken, beef stew, pork chop, fish, tofu, and more.

But this place is Hainan chicken rice heaven. When people tell you to get the Hainan chicken, when Yelpers tells you it’s famous and it’s HIGHLY recommended, or when you see almost everyone inside eating the Hainan chicken, THEN for crying out loud GET THE HAINAN CHICKEN. It is cheap heaven on a plate. For $6.75 (plus $2 for dark meat) you get this huge plate of addiction. The chicken has been poaching in their special broth until it is just fall off the bone tender and infused with such amazing flavor. Dip it in ginger and chili sauce and it is elevated to another level. I mean it is something so simple on a plate. It looks just as plain as chicken and rice, but do not underestimate my friends. This plate is love inside your mouth. Simple yet so complex in flavor, a wave of warmth and comfort on your palate: sweet, salty, savory (SSS-triple threat). And of course, let us not forget the rice. The same poaching liquid for the chicken is used as the cooking liquid, lending such a light, savory flavor to the fluffy rice. I just can’t get over it. Uhuh.

Unfortunately, it is CASH only so come prepared. I would like to try the curry; it comes highly recommended. But when people tell you to get Hainan Chicken Rice…what do you do??? This foodie will not be told twice…this foodie WILL get Hainan Chicken Rice.

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Filed under Chicken, Chicken and Rice, Chinese Food, Comfort Food, Malaysian Food, Pasta