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SD Dish of the Month - November 2013 [Pasta]

Everyone likes pasta, sí? I mean, what’s not to like? So this month’s Dish-of-the-Month will almost certainly float boats, light candles, ring chimes, rock socks, and flip pancakes. Or not. But I hope so. No DIY allowed, though.

Yes, November’s dish may be a wee bit on the heavy-ish and calorific side, but hopefully it can be snuck in before the 28th. Or, damn the torpedos, after.

Anyway, my tenure as Dish-of-the-Month Dictator is drawing to a close. [Roaring cheers swell up from the crowd...Dictator presses on] After this, which is my last official proclamation, all of my exalted dictatorship power goes back to Dish-of-the Month Uber-Dictator, cstr. [More cheers]

Now, as I recall, cstr previously decreed that there will be no DotM in December, so all those of you who are potential but reticent dictator volunteers probably don’t have to hide out behind a tablecloth just yet. But I’ll leave all of that recruiting stuff up to her.

Except for one thing. For the benefit of the next Dictator, here’s a list of the past Dishes of the Month: Burger, donut, sausage, chile relleno, carne asada burrito, soup, pie, salad, curry, and now pasta. Which, when I look at it, kind-of sort-of reads like an “I’m craving” list.

Wish I knew a snappy Italian phrase to close with, but I don’t. In any case, I hope we’ll have a good thread this month sharing opinions about pasta dishes around town.

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  1. "Burger, donut, sausage, chile relleno, carne asada burrito, soup, pie, salad, curry, and now pasta"

    Sounds like lunch.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Fake Name

      The only thing missing is chicken...

      1. re: Fake Name

        Layer the preceding ingredients into a deep pie crust.

        Cover with another pie crust, seal the edges tightly and deep fry.

        Slice vertically and serve at the next Del Mar Fair.

        1. re: The Office Goat

          "Layer the preceding ingredients into a deep pie crust."

          In the order listed? I want to get this right.

          1. re: The Office Goat

            "Layer the preceding ingredients into a deep pie crust.

            Cover with another pie crust, seal the edges tightly and" ...you have Timpano!

              1. re: honkman

                Nice! Thought we could go with "De gustibus non est disputandum" as the board motto!

                1. re: nessy

                  Based on our regular discuissions about the missing quality of the restaurants in SD I thought it was "Morituri te salutant"

              2. This will give me a chance to try Mama Mia in PB again, I try to like that place but, it has always lacked. They do make their own pasta.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cstr

                  Hopefully you report back, we had the same hope for that place but also the same experiences

                  1. Okay, since it's Nov. 1st, I'll start off with one of my go-to favorite pasta dishes.

                    That would be Pasta Ortiz at Nonno's Ristorante in a small, non-descript strip mall (next to a hooka bar) in La Mesa.

                    It is basic spaghetti (from a broadline distributor, no doubt) tossed with a generous number of 16/20 ct. shrimp that have not been overcooked or turned to mush. The whole thing is finished with a creamy parmesan and cilantro sauce.

                    I rarely order pasta when dining out and I rarely order shrimp when dining out. I ordered this dish mostly because I was curious to see how ingredients I'd be more likely to find in a Mexican restaurant worked out in this Italian one. Surprisingly well.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      Creamy parm and cilantro? Mex alfredo?

                        1. re: cstr

                          It's not called Pasta Ortiz for nothing ;-)

                      1. All you can eat pasta lunch at the Olive Garden. SCORE!!!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: RB Hound

                          OK RB, I assume you're just fun'n.

                        2. I am off to Volare's!

                          1. If only the Gaslamp had spawned places like Baci’s!

                            For anyone who isn’t already familiar, this long-established restaurant in the Morena area is a classic in San Diego. Once inside, you’ll forget where you are in the city, as you’ll be immediately greeted by the owner, escorted into elegant surroundings, and treated from start to finish with absolutely unsurpassed service.

                            For me, there were three things that were new today: I’ve never been at lunchtime; I’ve never gone alone; and I’ve never ordered pasta there as an entre.

                            Today, I ordered the linguine alle cozze, which was wonderful. You have to really like mussels (as I do) to enjoy this dish, though, as the thin, ever-so-slightly creamy sauce (my take) in no way shifts the dominant flavor of the dish away from them. The only other “macro-ingredients” are cooked peeled tomatoes, fresh garlic slices, and fresh parsley tips, which perfectly compliment the steamed local mussels. I counted 15 mussels arranged in their shells around the pasta. All were succulent. My only minor quibble was with the linguine itself, which may have been made in-house, but didn’t have that fresh-made taste. It was also a little more rubbery, less al dente, than I prefer.

                            I haven’t been to Baci’s in some time, and I’m glad I went. It’s great to be able to get a delicious Italian meal along with elegant, brisk, gracious, tux-waiter service. No holds barred. And this on a Monday. At lunchtime.

                            5 Replies
                              1. re: Fake Name

                                The dish I had was $15. Other lunch pastas were in the same range, plus or minus.

                                Other things on the menu looked reasonable, but I only glanced. I went in for pasta and so didn't pay too much attention.

                                1. re: DoctorChow

                                  Within my lunch budget…sorta..

                                  Going to have to try it.

                              2. re: DoctorChow

                                Love the pasta at Baci and, if you like veal, probably the best in town.

                                Need to go back there and soon, but first--dinner plans tomorrow night at Michael's on Naples in Long Beach. Very good restaurant all around and evidently Zagat agrees,naming it the #1 Italian restaurant in all of SoCal and #1 pizza in the USA (very good, but don't get me started on another pizza discussion).

                                1. re: El Chevere

                                  I very often order veal dishes in Italian restaurants and agree that Baci's is top shelf in that arena.

                              3. Lovely dinner at Blue Ribbon Rustic Kitchen in Hillcrest last night. Chuck ordered the fettuccine with pecorino romano, heavy cream and "1 hour" egg (sous vide). Interesting presentation in a "bowl" made of a romano crisp. Very delicious, VERY rich. I have also had the ravioli filled with braised short rib and served with wild mushrooms and a horseradish beurre blanc, which was exceptional. Lots of interesting pasta options on that menu.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: foodiechick

                                  I'm going to try to get to Blue Ribbon Rustic Kitchen sometime this month for pasta, too. I've had my eye on the dish your husband had, in fact, but now maybe I'll try something else. I can always go back. Both of the pasta dishes you described sound really great!

                                  1. re: foodiechick

                                    When I was in Michoacan back in March all the better restaurants were serving their caesar salads in a parmesan crisp bowl. Some were better than others, but it was an interesting spin on the salad

                                  2. Off to Bencotto today for lunch. This smartly stylish small restaurant on Fir is long and skinny, with lots of window tables to watch people go by (all of whom seemed to be headed to Underbelly, which was, of course, packed).

                                    I ordered whole wheat fettuccine with sausage-tomato sauce, a tasty and filling dish, although a little overpriced at $14, I thought. The sauce was made up almost entirely of ground sausage (plus one small sausage which was cut in half lengthwise), and just a little medium-thickness tomato. The fettuccine, which is said to be made fresh daily but didn’t taste like it, was quite thin and quite wide, probably about 3/8 of an inch wide. Maybe it’s hard to make thick fettuccine out of wheat flour? Whatever, but the pasta wasn’t a highlight. The sausage was nice and sweet, with just a little bit of sharpness to it and a pleasant, dominant anise flavor.

                                    Service was friendly and attentive.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: DoctorChow

                                      The pastas are not bad at Bencotto...I have more of an issue with the sauces--could be a little bit more flavorful--lacking that oomph..

                                      You might like the pasta dishes, and sauces, at Salvatore's downtown.

                                      1. re: El Chevere

                                        Thanks. I do like the pasta dishes at Salvatore's. The "Papa Siso" and "Bavette" are excellent. I didn't want to go there during November, though, because I wanted to try pasta at places where I hadn't had it previously.

                                        I was a little disappointed in the sausage pasta dish I had at Bencoto's, and very disappointed in the (admittedly included) bread with balsamic and oil that came with it. The sourdough was dry, tasted day-old. Still, I like the place and will return.

                                        1. re: DoctorChow

                                          That is a consistent problem I find at most Italian places in San Diego-- the bread. I wish someone would offer a good pugliese style bread that soaks up the EVOO that I find at fine Italian restaurants in other cities (such as Delfina SF, Caffe Mingo and Serrato in PDX, etc).

                                          1. re: DoctorChow

                                            I should also add that even with the couple of places we both like, overall if I were to move from San Diego, I don't believe I would be missing or craving the overall Italian food scene here in general.

                                      2. Does Anyone Do Hand-Pulled Noodles in SD?

                                        Yes, I was watching "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" with Guy Fieri in Portland at Frank's.

                                        Yes, I like the show at times, so sue me for my lowbrow interests.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Gypsy Jan

                                          They used to do it (and put on quite a show) and Mandarin House. I think they stopped many years ago.

                                        2. A very pleasant lunch at Busalacchi’s on 5th today, where I had the spaghettini granchio. The pasta was fresh-tasting and was served properly al dente -- just the way I like it. The rich, creamy pale orange-colored (from saffron) sauce contained, among other things, a nice amount of good quality crab meat and fresh diced roma tomatoes, and had a subtle but easily detectable hint of brandy. I ate every molecule. Served with two small warm bread “loaves” (for which I’m sure there’s some Italian name) and chopped, delicately-spiced tomatoes on top of olive oil to go with them. Cordial, attentive, non-intrusive service. Very nice, and a good value at $17.

                                          1. I don’t need to describe Cucina Urbana to those who frequent this board. This quintessentially Southern California restaurant, set below street level just across the bridge from Balboa Park, with its classy-modern interior and laid-back service, is a place that should be on everyone’s list during a visit to San Diego.

                                            The bucatinni all’amatriciana at lunch today was outstanding. The pasta tasted like it had just been made (maybe it had) and was perfectly al dente. The colorful, surprisingly tangy amatriciana sauce (a 3 on my personal hotness scale) was delicious, with lots of flavorful, crispy-chewy pieces of pork jowl. A real winner.

                                            The manageable-size serving was very satisfying, and, by my way of thinking, an excellent value at $18. A highly recommended dish.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: DoctorChow

                                              are all the pastas made in-house? I can't remember.

                                              1. re: MrKrispy

                                                Good question; I don't know. Maybe someone else does?

                                            2. Best pasta we had in a long time in San Diego yesterday at JSix - Rigatoni with goat ragu, broccoli leaves, ricotta, mint and chili as well as pumpkin agnolotti, pomegranate seeds, crispy sage, hazelnuts, toasted squash, broken pomegranate vinaigrette. Both pasta were made in- house and outstanding.
                                              Somebody wished to have something like Baci in the Gaslamp, at least in terms of pasta (but also with other dishes) JSix plays in a different league than Baci

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: honkman

                                                Sounds outstanding and I'll have to try it.

                                                'Twas I who wished the Gaslamp had evoled more restaurants like Baci. Elegant service, fine food, and grown-up ambience.

                                                I love JSix and am glad to hear it isn't lowering its bar.

                                              2. Today’s trek was to Blue Ribbon Rustic Kitchen, for an early dinner. This was just my second time there, and while I like the place, at happy hour it was pretty noisy. During “regular” dinner hours, which is when I went last time, it was “lively”, but not “noisy”.

                                                I had to chuckle a little: Everyone (including me) was bundled up because of the weather -- it felt a little like being back east when it’s 15 degrees outside and there are two feet of snow on the ground.

                                                I planned to order something other than the fettuccini or ravioli because foodiechick had commented on both of those earlier in this month’s DotM thread. Ravioli just sounded good at the moment, though, and that’s what I ended up getting .

                                                It was delicious. The pasta tasted very fresh and was nicely al dente. The braised short rib filling was tender and flavorful. The half dozen or so ravioli were covered with a very colorful light cream sauce that included horseradish buerre blanc and wild mushrooms, and was topped by a little pile of an unknown (to me) herb. The delicately sweet, delicately bitter flavors of the sauce and the herb complimented each other in a delightful way, and worked very well with the pasta and meat. An interesting dish.

                                                I had a glass of red wine with it, but white might have been a better choice with this dish -- or maybe none at all. Every time I took a sip of wine, it cancelled out the intricate flavors of the very complex ravioli sauce. This was one of those very, very rare occasions when I felt that I’d be better off sticking with water. Just a passing comment.

                                                Overall, a great pasta dish. I can see why FC said it was excellent. Concur!

                                                1. Well, here it is -- December. Thanks to all for putting up with me as DotM Dictator for the past three months. I can see now that salad, curry, and pasta might not have been the absolutely best possible choices on my part, but hey, no one should be expected to be perfect at being the quarterly DotM Dictator. Kind of like being a first-time parent. I was trying to pick things that have wide availability, aren’t overwhelmingly expensive, and haven’t been talked about very much on this board in recent times.

                                                  We had lots of great posts and friendly discussion during my three months, so I’m happy for that. And for my part, I ate lots more salad, curry, and pasta than usual!

                                                  Anyway, good wishes to the next Dictator, and I hope their choices get lots of posting activity. I really like the DotM idea, and hope it will continue for a long time on this board.

                                                  And with that, the ceremonial mace goes back to cstr.

                                                  14 Replies
                                                  1. re: DoctorChow


                                                    What happend to this? It's a brave new year!

                                                    1. re: Fake Name

                                                      Well, I was anticipating that cstr would put out a call for volunteers in December for Dish of the Month Dictator for Jan-Mar. I was a little surprised when that didn't happen, but maybe she's lost interest??

                                                      I miss it.

                                                      1. re: DoctorChow

                                                        'but maybe she's lost interest??'
                                                        LOL..cstr has responded to me in a post that 'she' is a 'HE'!
                                                        He got tired of me calling him 'sista'.

                                                        He does have feminine qualities about him..hee hee

                                                        1. re: Beach Chick

                                                          Actually, I thought he was a she because of that! (You calling him "sista".)

                                                          I also thought "cstr" might stand for "sister". As in YOUR sister.

                                                          So much for dumb conclusions on my part.


                                                          P.S. Sorry, cstr.

                                                          1. re: DoctorChow

                                                            I have my own quantitative theoretical framework on the acronym..

                                                            ; )

                                                                1. re: Fake Name

                                                                  Love his middle name of Armstrong..

                                                                  Custer's troops named him "Iron Butt" and "Hard Ass"..

                                                          2. re: DoctorChow

                                                            January's half over so I'd say let's skip January DOTM.

                                                            I'd suggest Russian or Greek for February in honor of the Winter Olympics, but there are so few option in SD that, even though February is such short month, I fear we'd exhaust our options the first week.

                                                            For February I think we should do chocolate. Almost no one is allergic to it, most people either like or LOVE it and there are a ton of options for chocolate in SD from Sees and Chuao to Extraordinary Desserts to Eclipse, to Niederfranks, to....

                                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                                              Are you volunteering to be DotM Dictator for February and March then?

                                                                1. re: Fake Name

                                                                  I think so too.

                                                                  I just opened a new thread on the subject.

                                                                  1. re: DoctorChow

                                                                    I would not argue with chocolate as a Dish o' the month.

                                                      2. Btw, I have never been to Godfather's in Clairemont but might be going soon... What's the verdict on that place?

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: El Chevere

                                                          Very old school Italian-American. However, my father-in-law (a native Italian) speaks highly of the place and recommends the Linguine Ai Frutti di Mare in red sauce.

                                                          1. re: El Chevere

                                                            Whither The Godfather.

                                                            FN-style summary: The olive oil is very flavorful. My summary:

                                                            The place is definitely “old school”, although that term has come to have a certain pejorative slant. I like “old school” once in a while. It can be a refreshing change from all of the “modern” places that start to take on a bit of sameness after a while.

                                                            Once your eyes adjust to the dim light in this smallish restaurant, you’ll be able to see attractive interior appointments, and bustling servers wearing Men’s Warehouse tuxes.

                                                            To me, the food here falls into the category of “good enough”. I don’t think it’s terribly inspired or inspiring. I go here exclusively for their pasta dishes now, when I’m in the mood for a hearty Italian-style lunch. They have a long list, and at lunchtime pasta dishes come with soup (which is usually good enough, but skip the alternative, which is salad -- and isn’t), a small side, and a sourdough loaf. The pasta isn’t made in-house (at least it doesn’t taste that way to me), but it’s good enough. The sauces are also good enough.

                                                            Basically what I go here for is a quickly-served, simple Italian lunch. I haven’t had their veal, chicken, or seafood in a really long time, and by my own criteria a meal here isn't the best value. Still, I find myself going back.

                                                            1. re: DoctorChow

                                                              "dim light in this smallish restaurant"

                                                              Ok, I'm there.


                                                              1. re: Fake Name

                                                                When I've been there, yes, very quiet. No blaring music to worry about...

                                                              2. re: DoctorChow

                                                                "attractive interior appointments" do you mean the plastic grape clusters meant to transport you to the Italian countryside? ;D