El Appetiz Dinner Report
I had a chance to try El Appetiz, a strangely named Italian restaurant in Baldwin Park - a city devoid of decent restaurants. It’s on the corner of Merced and Baldwin Park Blvd, just North of the 10 fwy. It was reviewed positively on Chowhound a couple of times, so I thought I’d try it with my four-year-old daughter.
First off, the surrounding area is horrible. It’s on the corner of a strip mall that holds a Laundromat, and some other rundown stores. A few parking spots were available in front of the restaurant and contained red cones to hold them – perhaps for their delivery drivers or future customers.
Inside, the restaurant is very small, but clean. The décor is unusual, seats about 24 people in tables of two and there is a covered patio through a sliding glass door which is surrounded by ivy and white fence which looked like a nice option when the weather cools off. The host/cashier/waiter greeted us right away and there were no other customers when we sat down. He brought us menus and took our drink orders. They have beer, wine and espresso drinks. I ordered an iced mocha latte since it was only $2.50. The latte, in a stainless milk shake container, was brought right away along with some complimentary garlic knots. Both were good.
The menu was typical Italian with a few twists. They had the normal pastas, pizzas and calzones. They also offered Wonton salad and Fajita Calzones. I opted for the large size Seafood Sauté, added a side Caesar salad for a dollar and an extra plate for the little one. The Seafood Sauté was described as salmon, scallops, and shrimp in a white wine cream sauce over linguine. I think the large portion was $8.
What came was more-or-less, okay. The dish was an attractive large portion of pasta. Four perfectly-cooked scampi-style jumbo shrimp were placed around the plate. The plate was dusted with parsley. They added some mushrooms to the pasta which I had to pick out. I don’t care for mushrooms and they weren’t listed in the menu so deduct one point for that. The shrimp and salmon chunks tasted great but the scallops were those tiny bay scallops, obviously from frozen, and turned into little gummy bears when overcooked. The pasta was a shade past al dente, but just fine. The sauce lacked something – pepper, salt? I don’t know. I passed on the offer from the waiter to add parmesan cheese to a seafood dish. I wouldn’t order this dish again. At another table two customers sat down and ordered bruschetta for starters. It looked great! Next time.
I took the leftovers home and my wife loved it.
I would give the restaurant an average score for food, but I have more dishes to try there before I make a decision. It gets an above average score for value since the portions were good and nothing is over $10. The most expensive item on the menu is Steak and Shrimp Scampi for $9.50. You can add soup or salad to any entrée for just a dollar.
I have a feeling that you had a case of the good-restaurant-unlucky-menu-choice syndrome, which is the exact same thing that happened to me at Sawtelle Kitchen my first 2 times. I hope you'll give this restaurant another try, because it's one of the few places in the area that is worth eating at. Here's what I would recommend
any salad, but greek is very good
chicken parmesan sandwich, or blackened chicken sandwich
chicken dijon, if you get the sauce on the side.
Please give this place another chance. I only wish there was another location closer to where I live.