Monday, June 15, 2009

Pomodoro Cucina Italiana - Huntington Beach

When thinking about going out for dinner, a chain restaurant is not usually my first pick, but Friend Kelly convinced me that Pomodoro was not a typical chain. While I'm a little hesitant because I have so many restaurants on my list right now, I'm happy to go with such good company.

When we arrived at the Bella Terra location in Huntington Beach, I was surprised that how few people were dining. I was even more surprised at the "Please seat yourself" sign. We choose a booth near the window, then Friend Kelly starting listing everything that she's tasted at Pomodoro. The menu has a lot of interesting and traditional choices, and I had a hard time deciding. First things first, though. Vino. I liked the wine sizes, 4 oz, 8 oz, and 16 oz, which allows for affordable choices.

While deciding, our friendly and eager waiter brought around the bread. The bread wasn't warm, but the lemony pesto and olive oil dipping sauce made up for it several times over. I wanted to sop up as many bits of basil as I could. This might be my favorite item of the night.

I think I mentioned that the restaurant was nearly empty, so how do you explain slow service? I would have been irritated if I wasn't having such a nice time chatting it up with Friend Kelly. She concurred. Perhaps it's easy to become lax when it's a slow evening at work?

I ordered a cup of of the tortellini soup to start. MIL Janice makes a delicious tortellini soup, and I'm sure she'd be glad to know that her's still reigns supreme. Pomodoro's tortellini soup was full of meat tortellini, fresh spinach leaves, and bits of braised beef. The broth had a strong beef flavor. I ate the whole cup, but it could have just as easily come out of a can. It also drives me crazy when spinach leaves stick to your spoon when you're trying to eat.
Friend Kelly's minestrone had better flavor. It was a thicker soup with all kind of Italian vegetables and white beans. The twist on this classic, pesto and toasted bread cubes. If I go back, I'll pick this soup instead.

The cup of tortellini soup is just 45 cents cheaper than the bowl of Minestrone.

The polenta appetizer came out with our soups. It was supposed to be better than it was - I just know it! Imagine this: polenta pinwheeled with fontina and spinach, topped with fresh tomatoes and crispy sage, all in a browned butter sauce. As wonderful as it sounds, it should not be served room temperature. I'll admit that the very center of pinwheel woke up my taste buds, but even the polenta itself lacked flavor. Friend Kelly said it's usually served hot, so it was a bit of a disappointment.

Polenta Farcita

I love being able to take my time between courses, but Pomodoro takes it to the next level. We had plenty of time. Maybe that's why the pasta courses came out cold? I ordered two different pastas. Ravioli stuffed with spinach, artichoke, and ricotta topped with crab in a tomato cream sauce was on the special list, and I'm a sucker for a special. The red pepper flakes added a much needed punch to an otherwise ordinary dish. I also ordered the Pasta P Lasagna. Lasagna is usually a pretty good indicator of an Italian restaurant. If that's the case, then bless their heart. I would have rather had Stouffer's. The noodles were b-o-r-i-n-g, hardly any sauce, and no evidence of herbs baked in. I think I tasted the pasta water. I will say that liked the meatball pieces (good fennel flavor) and the addition of mushrooms and fresh spinach.

Pasta P Lasagna
You might like it if you prefer plain food.

Not the best picture of the Ravioli Special

Friend Kelly ordered the Mista salad. Tomatoes, carrots, and gorgonzola cheese over mixed greens. It was simple and fresh looking.
Mista Side Salad
The high point of the evening: Spending time with a friend. The low point of the evening: Being served cold food that lacked flavor. Friend Kelly assures me that the Irvine location is better, and I'm willing to give it another shot... but probably not until I cross a few other restaurants off of my list.
...and those are my Notes from the Napkin!
Pomodoro at Bella Terra
7811 Edinger AveSte 110
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

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