By Jessica Turner
Located in a historic brick building in Old Town Pasadena’s One Colorado Center, Café Santorini provides discerning diners with a delicious taste of the Mediterranean. Its menu is not strictly Greek, though you’ll find platters overflowing with an abundance of stuffed grape leaves, tabouleh, Hallumi cheese, soujouk sausage, babaganoush, pita, olives, and other favorites from the isles.
Guests should be sure to ask for a table on the restaurant’s extensive patio, adorned with a canopy of festive white lights that recalls the romance of a traditional seaside Greek dining establishment (though here, you’ll be high above bustling crowds of Old Town shoppers, rather than the Aegean.)
Our meal started with a sublime spicy tuna tartare: a tower of diced Ahi tuna spiced with Moroccan harissa and seaweed, layered with avocado and garnished with daikon sprouts and a wasabi aioli. Standouts among the mezze (Mediterranean appetizers) were fried kubbe, little “footballs” of seasoned ground beef and pine nuts encrusted with bulgar wheat and served with tzatziki, and cheese borek, a dish consisting of light, flaky filo pastry stuffed with feta, mozzarella cheese, mint and parsley.
For the main course, Café Santorini dishes up a variety of pizzas baked to perfection in their wood-fired oven. There are also pasta and risotto dishes, including a delectable risotto with black mussels, shrimp and clams mingled with spinach, red onions and a creamy red curry sauce.
No Mediterranean restaurant worth its salt would be without lamb on the menu, and here the braised lamb shank is done just right — fork-tender, served with a mushroom and sun-dried tomato sauce that together is melt-in-your-mouth perfection.
Café Santorin’s staff is welcoming, efficient and knowledgeable. Our waiter took the time to describe our dishes in detail and chose the perfect wine to accompany our meal. (Though on a hot night you may want to opt for their white Sangria… fruity but not too sweet, and with just enough “kick”!)
64 West Union Street
Pasadena, CA 91103
Villa Sorriso, a spacious oasis in Pasadena’s bustling Old Town shopping district, is a fine place to refuel and relax with girlfriends after a shopping spree, enjoy a romantic dinner for two, stage a special event, or hit the nightclub scene (at Cielo, Villa Sorriso’s Saturday-night spot, featuring outdoor dancing, lounge areas, dinner & bottle service for the 21+ crowd.)
The menu is full of Italian favorites, including salads, pastas, pizzas, roasted and grilled meats and fish. For starters, try the homemade crab cakes, served with a lobster crème sauce and topped with a mango pico de gallo. The garlic-roasted mussels are melt-in-your-mouth perfection, as is the carpaccio.
A di Mare salad with shrimp, calamari, scallops, black mussels, manila clams, fennel, Belgian endive, roma tomatoes, and fresh basil served over a bed of mixed baby greens in a balsamic Dijon vinaigrette makes a delicious light luncheon or dinner entrée.
For pasta, penne alla vodka, a Sorriso favorite, is a good bet, as is the rigatoni tossed with Italian sausage, mushrooms, shallots, garlic and crushed red pepper in a white wine sauce. Pizza lovers will enjoy the classic margherita pie, or the shrimp and goat cheese pizza with sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and a basil pesto sauce.
The grilled New Zealand Lamb, served with Israeli couscous, sautéed garlic spinach and a Pinot Noir sauce is excellent, and veal osso buco in a port-wine and vegetable reduction sauces served with saffron risotto is a hearty and comforting dish.
Villa Sorriso is known for its selection of classic and signature martinis. Be sure to ask to try the Marilyn Monroe, the WOK N ROLL, and the Desperate House Wife! For wine lovers, there is an extensive selection of Californian and Italian vintages.
168 W. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91105
CAFÉ 140 SOUTH
Café 140 South, formerly the Crocodile Café, is a gem among the dining establishments that line Pasadena’s fashionable South Lake Avenue district. Owned by hometown restaurateurs extraordinaire the Smith Brothers (Arroyo Chop House, Parkway Grill), Café 140 serves up California cuisine in a comfortable, elegant atmosphere that is at once old school in charm and modern in its dedication to fresh, seasonal fare and superb service.
The menu at Café 140 South is both familiar and inventive. Boasting burgers, wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes and an array of mouth-watering entrees, there is something here for every taste. A grilled artichoke appetizer is a particular standout; its smoky, oakwood-infused flavor is nicely accompanied by a creamy, slightly acidic remoulade. On the burger menu, the Café 140 Special Burger (a custom blend of brisket and short rib ground fresh daily, topped with blue cheese), Kobe Burger (with smoked Gouda and prosciutto ham) or the California Burger (topped with avocado, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and arugula) are all best bets.
The wood-fired, handcrafted pizzas at Café 140 are positively scrumptious: the Wild Boar Italian Sausage pizza with smoked mozzarella, wood-roasted onions, and scallions is hearty and flavorful, while the Prosciutto and Arugula pizza with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil oil and lemon oil is light and bursting with the aromas of farm-fresh produce.
Dinner entrees include a Marinated Oakwood Grilled Chicken with tomato balsamic vinaigrette, herb-roasted potatoes, and sautéed spinach, a Stout-Braised Short Rib in a Samuel Smith Stout reduction, and Grilled Ahi Tuna with black sesame crust, stir-fried vegetables, Asian spice rice and sweet ginger chili glaze. For dessert, one must order the “Killer” carrot cake — if you dare!
An extensive wine list and friendly, helpful servers ensure that dinner or lunch at Café 140 South will be a memorable one — be sure to bring your appetite!
Café 140 South
140 South Lake Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91101