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Cantalini's Salerno Beach Restaurant

jdsoda Nov 7, 2007 11:21 AM

Has anyone eaten at this restaurant in Playa Del Rey? I drive by it all the time when I go surfing in Manhattan Beach --and I always think that it looks like and interesting/"old school"/kitschy/ place to try --from the outside --but yet, I have not taken the plunge --I noted some previous posts that gave some good reviews --but I guess I'm looking for more...

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  1. c
    comedor RE: jdsoda Mar 9, 2008 09:22 PM

    This is, of course, a late reply. But I'd often wondered the same thing as OP when driving by. So after a thousand turns at that intersection, and after reading the conflicting opinions on Chow, we finally tried it. First visit was "prime time" on a Friday night. We walked in to find a packed house which surprised me considering what I'd read. The crowd was mostly older folks. We were directed to the attached "Harbor Room" to wait. The Harbor Room is a little nook of a bar with old photos of the area as decor. Our table was ready earlier than promised. Throughout the experience, all the service was very professional and pleasant (both visits).
    The vibe is accurately described as "old school/kischy" and it was fun. Booths along one wall, two-tops down the center, and a couple tables that accomodated slightly larger groups on the opposite wall. On the second visit, we didn't go until about 8:45 (also a Friday) and the room was about 1/3 full.
    The food was about what other posters have noted: uneven. A bread basket with two types of bread (one a foccacia) was placed. There's probably room for improvement on the bread. We agreed that the sauteed spinach garlic olio (a huge portion for $6.95) was great. The garlic cloves were perfectly roasted, carmelized, and mellow. We ordered it again on the second visit and the garlic was even better that time. The dinner salad lettuce mix, and the dressing, are pretty b-flat; as an entree salad it was $2.50. But, it comes with a tasty cheeseroll- and that's what earned it a repeat on the 2nd visit. On the second visit we tried the ceasar salad ($4.95). I've had better and I've had worse. On the first visit, I had the rack of lamb special. It was OK, but I probably won't order it again-- hard to put my finger on what the problem was. The surprise was the potatoes on the side. I was initially disappointed b/c they looked like steak fries, which I don't care for. I tried one anyway and ended up eating them all. They turned out to have this great pan-roasted crust of varying degrees on different pieces. Dining parter thought the ravioli was OK (I'll have to check to see if she ever served time in the CYA under the watchful eye of Westsidegal who compared this dish to prison food). I didn't think to try it. On the second visit we split the Rigatoni al Pesto. ($13.95) It didn't have that overly oily separation that can be common in pestos. The noodles were properly cooked and the ratio of noodle to sauce was right. The dish grew on me. Lastly, as noted by others, the Spumoni is great.
    I forget the tab on the first visit. The second visit was less that $41.00 (before tip) for the spinach app, two salads, the pasta, a glass of wine (decent size pour) and spumoni. They apparently have complimentary valet parking, but we found parking w/in 75 yards both times. Yes, it's no Mozza; but frankly, we can't go to Mozza all the time. We love the food at a number of other Italian restaurants on the westside, but Cantalini's atmosphere and service are better than some and their prices are better than others. We'll return to Cantalini's occasionally because of the total package.

    1. p
      Picky in PDX RE: jdsoda Jan 24, 2009 11:58 AM

      Cantalini's has a strong local following, myself included. We eat there fairly often--some of our favorites are the garlic spinach, seafood ravioli, penne pasta, cioppino (chock full of seafood), Caesar, (above average for the price) and wines by the glass (good quality and not as pricey as other restaurants in the area). I agree the bread could use improvement. LA Times honored Cantalini's as a top ten Italian restaurant in 2008. I have never had a bad meal there plus the employees really hustle.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Picky in PDX
        Adsvino RE: Picky in PDX Jan 24, 2009 06:08 PM

        I never saw the LA times even mention them--are you sure it wasn't 1988?

      2. westsidegal RE: jdsoda Jan 24, 2009 12:02 PM

        imho, the only thing edible there is the spumoni.

        truly awful food.

        8 Replies
        1. re: westsidegal
          Mr Taster RE: westsidegal Apr 9, 2014 02:45 PM

          Any update since 2009, westsidegal? The website looks great-- I'm a sucker for kitschy old school Italian American. I'm so sad that I missed the era of Little Joe's in Chinatown... I arrived in LA right before it closed for good, so never made it inside.

          I'd love to hear your recs for others in the area, with better food in the same price range.


          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster
            westsidegal RE: Mr Taster Apr 9, 2014 04:34 PM

            one of my social groups, one that is composed of people with no sense of taste, liked it.
            even THEY haven't gone in there for years.
            there is no reason beyond wishful thinking for it to improve.

            if, prior to going there, you get soused at the HARBOR ROOM, maybe you won't be able to taste the food. . . .

            1. re: westsidegal
              Mr Taster RE: westsidegal Apr 9, 2014 05:07 PM

              Harbor Room looks highly intriguing... but doesn't look like an old school red sauce Italian place to me!

              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster
                Servorg RE: Mr Taster Apr 9, 2014 05:21 PM

                With all due respect to wsg and her intense dislike of Cantalini's Salerno I find their spaghetti and meatballs quite good in that (don't worry about al dente) red sauce Italian way that satisfies an itch I enjoy scratching: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/cantal...

                1. re: Servorg
                  westsidegal RE: Servorg Apr 9, 2014 06:25 PM

                  emphasis on this snippet of my earlier post

                  <<PRIOR TO GOING THERE>>>

                  it's the only way i know that could transform cantalini's into being an acceptable restaurant to me.

                  1. re: westsidegal
                    Servorg RE: westsidegal Apr 9, 2014 06:40 PM

                    Different strokes. I also still go to and enjoy Alejo's (all without imbibing any alcoholic beverages beforehand) along with the spaghetti and meatballs at Cantalini's.

                    1. re: Servorg
                      bundyal RE: Servorg Apr 10, 2014 11:16 AM

                      Alejo's on Lincoln near Costco is something else now. Any reports?

                      1. re: bundyal
                        Servorg RE: bundyal Apr 10, 2014 11:33 AM

                        When we go it's to the one up the hill in Westchester proper so I can't tell you if the other location is still the same, or not.

        2. j
          jessejames RE: jdsoda Apr 10, 2014 10:23 AM

          always wondered about that spot--similar red sauce stuff as C&O? im not above a plate of meatballs.

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