There has certainly been quite a few new openings in Pasadena in the past couple of years, and there's one more to be excited about: Trattoria Neapolis on Lake Ave.
Having lived literally across the street for about 3 years, I now cannot even recall what was previously in this space next to Anthropologie. They have now renovated it into a spacious and elegant dining space, complete with a beautiful enclosed patio space by the entrance.
Other than the food, you should also be really excited about the drink program. The owner Perry Vidalakis has really searched out some of the best in the business in every aspect.
Before the dinner started, we were all treated to a glass of Deus Brut des Flandres (Brouwerij Bosteels, Buggenhout, Belgium)
This biere de champagne has been one of my favorites, sometimes I crave it more than champagne.
Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune, a.k.a. The Beer Chicks, are in charge of the beer. Christina is responsible for the beer list while Hallie is acting as the in-house cicerone.
The main beer and wine list consist only of either local or Italian (with all beers on tap coming from the LA area), but there is an extensive reserve list with what they deem the best beers and wines from all over the world (the Deus obviously is on this list).
Christina had recently spent some time in Italy so this project came at the perfect time for her. She says there is a huge beer revolution there and there are over 300 breweries now in Italy, twice as many as in Belgium.
While waiting for dinner: Arancini - mini crispy lobster arancini, pickled fennel, Eureka lemon aioli
The first two courses were paired with cocktails (that are actually created especially for this dinner. It's not on the menu but the bartenders can create "bespoke" cocktails for you).
For the cocktails, the owner has enlisted Vincenzo Marianella of Copa d'Oro, the Godfather of LA cocktail scene, to create the cocktail menu. His Italian background probably helps him pair the cocktails with the food here as well.
The first is Vincenzo's twist on a French75: Pasadena 75 with Plymouth gin, Cynar, lemon, cucumber and celery juices, prosecco
Barbabietole - roasted baby beets, saba, grilled treviso, house made goat milk ricotta
Polipo - wood grilled baby octopus with crispy "potato torta", cerignola olives, sweet tomato oil
This was paired with Ostuni, made with Partida Reposado tequila, Aperol, fresh ruby grapefruit juice, prosecco.
(Ostuni is an area in Puglia famous for octopus.)
Vincenzo wanted to try something difficult to pair (tequila) and it worked quite nicely.
Our first pasta course was the Gnocchi - roast garlic gnocchi, smoked pork shoulder, artichoke, asparagus
According to Christia Perozzi, artichoke is difficult for wine pairing but good with light, effervescent beer (which is also good with smoky flavors). She paired this with the Blond 5 from Brouwerij West, a local Los Angeles brewery. This 5% ABV Belgian style blond is fruity, citrusy, and effervescent.
Next is the Lasagna - wood grilled summer vegetables, ricotta, mascarpone
Paired with Nora, Birreria Le Baladin, Torino, Italy
The entrees are paired with wine, which had been chosen by Diego Meraviglia. He wanted a list for everyone with all kinds of palates and budgets. There is a list of 50 wines under $50, and 120 wines in total (including the reserve list).
Merluzzo - pan roast black cod, charred sweet corn, Manila clam broth, salsa maro (fava beans)
paired with Chardonnay, Copain, Anderson Valley 2010
The wine is a biodynamic, unoaked Chardonnay. According to Diego, it's balance between European and American style. Since black cod is a fatty fish, it needs something crisp with higher acid to cut it.
Bistecca - wood grilled Wagyu flat iron steak, crispy Temecula honey onions, salsa verde, porcini BBQ sauce
Paired with Valpolicella "Ripasso" doc, "Il Bugiardo", Buglioni, Veneto 2008
The flatiron cut of wagyu gives it that meaty flavor some people look for in a steak, but it's still very tender. The BBQ Sauce is made with oven dried porcini, mustard, and balsamic vinegar. Since it's sour, Diego paired it with a jammy wine to cut it.
The Ripasso is Valpolicella which was remacerated in the pomace used to make Amarone. It's big and bold, but a middleground between the dry Valpolicella and sweet Amarone. (I'm seeing this middleground between two different styles to be a running theme here. The Chardonnay, the flatiron wagyu).
All the entrees come with a choice of a side dish, though in our tasting we more than one:
Finocchio - roasted fennel, tangerine, toasted pistachios, white balsamic
Carciofi - crispy artichokes, caper berries, ricotta salata, mint
he semi-private dining room upstairs:
Panna Cotta - Greek yoghurt honey panna cotta with apricot granita, hazelnuts, and basil gelatini
Marsala Superiore, 10 years, De Bartoli, Sicilia
Yoghurt panna cotta? Yep!
Marsala is historically a very important dessert wine but thanks to marketing and commercialization it has been relegated to cooking wine. Diego wants to show what a great dessert wine it is.
The dessert was also served with a cup of Guatemala Finca El Injerto - Bourbon varietal, single origin direct trade, French press. The restaurant uses Stumptown Coffee, who will soon be opening a roaster in Los Angeles (in early 2013), but the Trattoria's decision to exclusively use their coffee came way before that.
The panna cotta was actually great with the coffee. The Marsala was great but pairing-wise, I thought the coffee was better.
We didn't try any of their pizza tonight, but their oven sure seemed impressive. The back part of the restaurant will be a sort of market / food-to-go section and they have tapped the former manager to Mozza 2 Go to run it.
Trattoria Neapolis will soft open with dinner service on July 10.
336 S Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91101