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Pasadena area graduation dinner around $20pp?

Need suggestions please for 2 families, group of 11 incl. 2 young kids, Saturday night dinner in SGV area for my boyfriend's PhD graduation.
Nothing pricey, but no cheesy chain restaurants. I would prefer ethnic food to give them a real L.A. experience, but need to be able to make reservations. It can't be "too ethnic" because I am not sure how adventurous the other family is, if-you-know-what-I'm-saying.

Pasadena is highly preferred.

El Portal - we've all been there numerous times
President Thai - love it, prefer trying something new
Green Street - safe. maybe too safe?
Xiomara - went there w/boyfriend and family last time
PF Chang's - chain. and too salty for me blech.
Saladang and Saladang Song - I'd prefer President Thai over these
Azeen's - maybe too ethnic even for my family
Cheesecake Factory - don't even think about it! :P
the new places in S. Pas - too expensive?

Please help?!?

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  1. I'm rereading this now. Is this an impossible request?

    1. Perhaps Il Capo Deli on green street, near Catalina (?) It meets your needs re menu and price. The food is good, not great or outstanding, but solid and very friendly service...a place where the kids will be comfortable and the adults with them. The small plates are great for a group, actually better than the entrees, plus many standards and definitely not "too ethnic". if you're looking more for a casual/comfortable vs sophisticated celebration, this may suit you. They do take reservations.

      see my (and other CHers) recent review. p.s. don't let the opening reviews alarm you - it's not all "little fishes and tongue" (that didn't sound right, but nevermind....) . Lots of basic meat, fish, and fowl without fancy sauces.


      and another... http://erinskitchen.blogspot.com/2007...

      2 Replies
      1. re: Local

        Thank you. Too informal for what I envisioned. I've only met my boyfriend's family once before, so I still feel the need to impress them. Just a little.

        1. re: CookieEater

          You have to go to IL FORNAIO in Old Twn Pas. It has a great glassed in private room for a small party. Great for an impressive but not stuffy dinner for fam or even a few friends. check their web

      2. How about red sauce Italian?

        Scarantino's, formerly known as Dino's Italian Inn (Pasadena, Colorado Blvd. a couple blocks east of Allen), has a back room that could accommodate your party. We had our rehearsal dinner there (20+ people). Just about everything is priced under $20. This place has been a favorite for years. And, there's a free parking lot behind the restaurant, so you don't even have to pay for a valet.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jack Flash

          I love Scarantino's! My husband stumbled across this place a few months back. Great food and portions.

        2. had large party at twin palm few years ago for brunch buffet and thought it was not too expensive?
          also maybe sorriso in old town or el cholo?

          3 Replies
          1. re: rickym13

            I've been Scared of Scarantino's (ha!) since it has no windows and never in my lifetime have I ever seen people coming in or out. But maybe that's because it has no windows. Maybe I should peek in there some time.

            Twin Palms and Sorriso are definitely out of the price range, but El Cholo is a possiblity.

            1. re: CookieEater

              The first thing they did to Dino's when it became Scarantino's just a year ago was to put two windows in the front. Actually, I have an old postcard of Dino's, and originally there were windows. I believe they were sealed up in a remodel a couple of decades ago.

              I think you have Pasadena Scarantino's (f/k/a Dino's Italian Inn) confused with the Glendale one, which has always been Scarantino's.

              1. re: Jack Flash

                oh... it was windowless nearly as long as I've been alive. I guess my memory hasn't adjusted yet. I'll keep it in mind, though I am not sure if my parents like red sauce Italian.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Agreed, a great suggestion all around, but think it would be tight on a $20 per person budget...maybe if you forego drinks, appetizers... but seems unrealistic...still tax, license and dealer prep will definitely put you over at dinner...and she vetoedTwin Palms, in the same price category as too expensive, so dunno....geez, they should try your Mon Land Hot Pot rec.in San Gabriel ;-)

              1. re: Local

                very very frugal mother (mine). Trying to keep everyone happy for this meeting. This is a challenging restaurant predicament, that's why I came to you guys! Why oh why don't all those yummy Chinese restaurants take reservations? we love love dumplings.

                1. re: CookieEater

                  My 2c is you won't be impressing the BF's parents much at el cholo or scarantino, jmho, and would default to El Portal before going to either of the other two. never fear, some CHer will have the right spot.

                  1. re: Local

                    OMG take them to IL FORNAIO. Call ahead and you can ask for the menu to be fax'd and let them know it's for a graduation. Try to go during the wk to avoid crowds if you can.

                  2. re: CookieEater

                    many of the chinese place do take reservation...nbc, ocean star etc...

              2. -Saladang Song (nice outdoor dining)
                -El Cholo (L.A. favorite - even though the one in Pasadena is the only franchise)
                -Mike & Anne's (SoPas - pretty reasonable, but not ethnic...you can sit outside too, lovely)
                -La Luna Negra (we had a passle of friends there for my birthday a few years back; about 22 - tapas and sangria for about $400).

                1. Good news and bad news. Plans have changed (group reduced by half) so my criteria have all changed (except for location).

                  What does this group think of Babita's? That's the graduate's first choice.

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: Jack Flash


                      Just be warned, though, that for large groups (yes, 5-6 people would be large for Babita standards) service can be a bit deliberate (read: slow). So, if you still have young kids in your group, best to arm them with the requisite Gameboy, iPod, or whatever is fashionably cool these days ...

                    2. I have seen large groups with kids at Chandra Thai on Arroyo, and the food there is good.

                      1. Since you left some wiggle room as to location (saying that Pasadena is preferred), I'd suggest a drive to West Hollywood and The Gardens of Taxco. It is unique in that they try to simulate dinner in an upscale Mexico City home. The menu is prix fixe and includes several appetizers, main course, dessert and even a sherry. There aren't even any menus: they ask you if you like beef, chicken, or fish and then reel off your options. We have gone there with small kids several times and I highly recommend it for something unique and a bit old-school. But it would entail a drive for you.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: tnilsson

                          Gardens of Taxco is right up with Medieval Times ....

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            oh god, that's rich! LOL (and tho' I haven't actually been, at least MT has the benefit/distraction of horses!)

                          2. re: tnilsson

                            That's a whole lot of wiggle room. My parents like that place, but definitely too far for this event. I meant Pasadena preferred, areas nearby ok.

                          3. What about Yuejean Kang on Raymond? And isn't there a Cuban place right on the corner of Union and Raymond?