fair-to-middling crowd at lunch. The decor is a bit dated, and the
service is definitely old school.
You won't hear "Hi, I'm Tad, and I'll be your server/actor today"
here. The wait staff is practiced at their trade -- on one visit, a
small problem with a wine-by-the-glass order was graciously and
deftly handled. A bread basket starts things off, with several
varieties to tempt the hungry diner. A slab of semolina bread, some
cheese rolls and olive-oil-drizzled dinner rolls will stave off any
stomach rumblings while your appetizer order is prepared.
Bruschetta is fresh and vibrant, with diced tomatoes tossed with
tart capers along with vinegar and olive oil. The flavor is bright,
and the toasty crostini provide a satisfying crunch. ($5.50)
Insalata del Lago is arranged with a deft hand. Delicate baby
greens weave a net, ensnaring curls of hearts of palm, crumbled goat
cheese, crisp bacon shards and toasted walnuts. A light and tangy
champagne dressing is served on the side, so you can dress to your
own satisfaction, avoiding sodden, overdressed greens. ($6.50)
Another appetizer, Gamberoni Sulla Paglia, is a delight. A golden
tangle of lacy potato strands, thin-thin-thin cut and fried to
shattering perfection, form a bed for four tail-on shrimp. I found
myself eating quickly, so that the flavorful lemon butter sauce would
not sog up the potatoes, but even the final bite was crisp.
The medium-sized shrimp are pink and perfectly cooked, not at all
A bowl of minestrone and this appetizer would make a lovely summer
lunch with a glass of Pinot Grigio.
Risotto con Funghi and Ragout di Pollo ($12.95) featured a deep
porcini flavor from dried mushrooms. The risotto texture was tender,
as it should be, with no residual chalkiness left on the back teeth.
The chicken ragout did not add much to the dish. Next time, I might
order the risotto meatless.
Maiale alla Pizzaiolo ("pork in the style of the pizza maker")
features tender pork scaloppine, paired with olives and capers,
topped with a silky drape of mozzarella. Bright, crisp-tender strips
of vegetables garnish the plate, along with a serving of linguine.
The dish is flavorful and not too heavy. ($15.50)
An order of roasted rack of lamb looked and smelled divine as it
was delivered to an adjacent table ... definitely worth going back to
try. The roast duck in green pepper sauce is also calling me, so
watch for me by the white birches.
* CHERIE MERCER TWOHY teaches cooking in La Canada Flintridge. She
can be reached at www.chezcherie.com.