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Apr 3, 2007 08:37 AM

Thai-Italian--An Empty Restaurant With Good Food (mini-review)

I met a friend for dinner last night at the fusion restaurant, Thai-Italian in Old Town Pasadena. We got there at about 6pm and had the place to ourselves as we were the only customers. Obviously, we got seated right away in the modern, sleek room that had a bar area and from where I was sitting, what looked like an open kitchen.

The host brought out a basket of some rice crackers and bread as well as an olive tapenade. I enjoyed the crispiness of the crackers but the bread was on the dry and bland side. The tapenade was quite nice though.

The menu is pretty extensive...lots of different things to choose from such as salads, pastas, seafood, and pizzas. I settled for the Thai BBQ chicken salad with a citrus dressing and my friend ordered the spicy green curry linguini w/chicken. My salad was a good size portion with several slices of avocado, corn, red onion, and chunks of chicken breast. The dressing was tangy and flavorful. I enjoyed my salad but found the chicken a little dry and not very BBQ-like (it would've been fine without the chicken in fact). I tasted my friend's curry linguini and found it to also be tasty with just the right amount of curry, not too overpowering and the pasta was cooked just right.

Overall, we enjoyed our dishes but couldn't help but wonder if this restaurant will last very long in Old Town. As we finished our meal we noticed only one other couple at a table and one person eating at the bar. Perhaps business picks up later in the week or on weekends(we did go on a Monday night afterall), but I do hope more people will give Thai-Italian a try. The prices were reasonable (both our dishes were around $10 each), the service friendly and prompt and the dining atmosphere is very lovely.

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  1. Yes - we went there a while back and had an excellent meal, and posted an enthusiastic review. SIV gave it a glowing write-up in the Times. So why are they still not packing them in? Is it just that nobody can make sense out of the concept? I couldn't either, really, which is why I had to go try it. I guess that sort of curiosity is less common than I'd expect...and maybe less common than the restaurant owners expected, too. Damn shame.

    1. Would either of you mind telling us the location? I'm not all that familiar with Old-Town Pasadena. Thank you!

      3 Replies
      1. re: MeAndroo

        49 E. Colorado - that's in the block between Fair Oaks and Raymond, north side of the street.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Many thanks. The Volcano pizza (Tiger shrimp, mild Italian sausage, chopped tomatoes, mixed chili, mozzarella cheese and spicy tomato sauce) sounds like it's right up my alley.

        1. The original comment has been removed
          1. Taking this post very much to heart, we made a point of going here for dinner after a gallery opening Saturday night. The place was about half occupied, which was some encouragement.

            Service was brisk and friendly. Mrs. O wanted a cute and fancy cocktail, and wound up with a lychee thing in a martini glass that was pretty tasty if not exactly my style, while I got a glass of a sturdy Pinot Noir. I was on a mission to find THE DEFINITIVE Pizza Margherita, and so I ordered theirs, with a bowl of Tom Ka Kai to precede it. Mrs. O asked for the curried beef tenderloin. The drinks came first of course, with a basket of a very nice kind of flatbread and some more mainstream toast, and a bowl of quite good tapenade. My soup was just about the best of these I've ever had, pleasantly sour and rich with a good coconut/lemongrass flavor and a good kick of ginger, galangal and red pepper. The soup itself was almost boiling hot, and the pieces of chicken were therefore more cooked than I really like, but the flavors were so intensified by the heat that it was all just fine with me.

            The mains were satisfactory: Mrs. O's tenderloin was a huge portion of very good meat in an interesting sauce, with a big mound of good rice on the side. My pizza had an excellent crust and was a good example of a fine and simple pie, let down only by the use of regular supermarket tomatoes on top instead of Romas, thus effectively drenching the topping with tomato water, something I would rather avoid. There were also just a few wads of not very flavorful basil on there, instead of many shredded leaves of fresher stuff. It was more than good enough to take the leftovers home for breakfast, though.

            Total grief for the table was a tad over $48, plus a $9 tip. A very pleasant experience, which we will be duplicating soon.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Will Owen


              I admire you.

              You have quite a tolerance for the little bumps that irk diners.

              I think the overcooked chicken in the soup would have put me off, the intensified flavors notwithstanding.

              The"regular supermarket tomatoes" on the pizza would have definitely been a big demerit, esp. if it left a puddle in the middle of my pie. And, what's up with the basil???

              Good for you, though. I think I may be a bit too anal ...

              1. re: ipsedixit

                I just know how easy it is to overcook bite-sized slivers of chicken breast. In an intense fine-dining environment, putting the chicken into hot soup over a minute before it's served would be inexcusable, but in this kind of place, at these prices, it's fairly excusable and quite forgivable. Especially if the soup is so killer good!

                I'm sure they buy only one sort of tomatoes for everything; again, it's probably about overhead. I'll just get my pizzas elsewhere - Manny's is nearby, and theirs is excellent.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  You say how easy it is to overcook the chicken, meaning you know how easy it is to cook it CORRECTLY, which they seem incapable of doing. I'm sorry, but for any price in any kind of place, overcooked inconsistent mediocre food is not excusable or forgiveable. A restaurant basically has one shot to get my business, although I am willing to go back to a mediocre place for at least one good dish (I might be swayed to go in for those mussels referenced below). But this place sounds fantastically blah. Probably not worth my time or money. No wonder it's empty.

                  I do agree with Manny's pizza, however. A fave.

                  1. re: diningdivala

                    Yes, do go in at least once. I give all restaurants one shot, like you. But this one shot (despite the blah descriptions) may surprise you. Try the mussels. They are fantastic. Grant it, this was a few months ago that I tried them.

              2. re: Will Owen

                Right there with ya Will. Based on your original post we went in February and posted a similar thumbs-up. We had the soup with shrimp instead of chicken...same issue but still good (and no different from my experience with some other "stellar" Thai restaurants-definitely a challenge not to overcook even if added at the end, given how hot that soup was)...i tend to be more into the broth than the "solids" anyway, so was quite content to silently slurp away...

              3. I must say, I agree that this place is really good, if you brave walking through the doors under the sign with such an unfortunate name. One dish we had that stood out, in fact that was so amazing that I was left craving it for days, was the lemongrass mussels. The wine broth was pretty divine. People should try it so this place stays in business against the hordes of Cheesecakers.