Dinner tonight in Pasadena---about $20/person
Green Street is always there, but looking for something a little different.
You can check out Xiomara's/Cafe Atlantic - it's a Euro-Cuban fusion place (the latter restaurant is more casual and likely to fit your budget). The mojitos made with fresh-squeezed cane juice is a must-try, though! And the food I had there before were pretty yummy.
www.xiomarasrestaurant.com - Cafe Atlantic's site is on there too
Of course, I instantly thought of Green Street. For Italian, I'd try Manny's on Fair Oaks. Pretty good white pies and others.
Perhaps Thaitalian in Old Pasadena (49 Colorado Blvd.) www.thaitalian.com. ?
Nothing special on the decor, but we had good soup (coconut shrimp) and green curry pasta. Viewed lettuce cup appetizers that other diners were having which looked like something to try next time. Quiet on a Weds. night...meets your $20 window, tho' glass of wine might put you over.
I would also recommend Cafe Atlantic, which is located behind Xiomara, You can either share a bunch of small plates or order an entree. It's not stunningly great but it's good Cuban food for a reasonable price.
I also think Cafe Bizou is a good deal - pretty basic meat/fish/chicken dishes, and I believe they have a $2 corkage fee. Also under $20 per person.
For Italian, I'd go to Briganti. You can get fantastic pasta dish for well under $20.
It just occured to me that, because it's Monday, these places may be closed. Might want to double-check before going...
Tibet Nepal House in Pasadena is a great place for a dining experience. I just hope the people that you are with are in for a spiritual dining experience. There's a big buddha in the back of the restaurant. You will find the decor of Tibetian prayer scrolls hanging from the ceiling and photos of the Dalai Lama hanging on the walls. The food is Tibetian/Nepalse, which is like Indian food, but it's a bit more earthy. I like the chicken dish when I was there. It's like Tandoori chicken but not as pungent. The rice pudding is quite good and not too sweet. They have a great buffet, but I'm not sure if it will be available for dinner.