SEASON MUSHROOM & TRUFFLE EXTRAVAGANZA!
The holidays are over, we’re into the swing of the New Year and yet this truly is the most wonderful time of year because Pasadena's Celestino, who has been delighting the palates of guests by treating them to a delightful taste of authentic Italian cuisine for nearly 20 years, is sporting its sensational seasonal mushroom and truffle menu throughout the month of February.
By now, LA diners are hip to the fact that when it comes to fine Italian dining, the famed Drago Brothers rule the roost. They have owned and operated some of the most popular high-end Italian restaurants since the '80s, including Il Pastaio, Il Fornaio Beverly Hills, Tanino Ristorante Bar in Westwood, and Drago Centro in downtown.
Chef Calogero Drago actually started Celestino (named after the eldest Drago brother) in Beverly Hills but has since relocated to Pasadena where incredible seasonal cuisine, made with the finest and freshest ingredients, comingle with an elegantly casual environment where every customer is made to feel like family. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to their annual mushroom and truffle menu. Make sure to feast on these bad boy mushrooms while you can.
I think my absolute favorite dish is the Porcini Mushroom Soup with Black Truffle. It’s so simple, yet complex, rich and decadent. The flavors are unbelievable. Have this as your first dish and you’ve already set the tone for a truly wonderful night out.
The Grilled Mushroom Porcini is another favorite. It is so tasty and hearty and so oversized that you cut and eat it almost like a piece of steak.
Choose from Morel mushrooms, Porcini mushrooms, and fresh summer truffles from Italy called Quercetti. The Veal Carpaccio with shaved fresh truffle and Pecorino cheese is a tasty treat. In the past they've served something similar -- the Tuna Carpaccio with mushrooms and truffles. In both cases, the mushrooms accentuate the truffles and the combination with veal this season, and tuna previously, really come to life.
One of my favorite truffle dishes was the Tortellini with meat (in this case, lamb) in Zaferan Pecorino and black pepper sauce with fresh truffles. It is outrageously delicious. During a previous visit, this dish was paired with a 2009 Barbera d'Alba, which, as was explained to us, hailed from the same region as the truffles, so both the wine and truffles came from the same earth in Piedmont, Italy—a very nice touch.
While the regular Celestino menu is stellar, favorites include Risotto al Nero di Seppie (Risotto with Squid Ink Sauce), Mezzelune d'Anatra con Salsa di Funghi, Mascarpone e Mirtilli (Half-moon Ravioli stuffed with Duck, Mushrooms, Mascarpone and Blueberry Sauce), and the Coniglio al Forno con Salsa di Olive Nere (Roast Rabbit with Black Olive Sauce), this time of year it is definitely worth it to get a few of the seasonal mushroom delicacies, which Calogero Celestino calls "jewels of the Earth."
Celestino is located at 141 S. Lake Avenue in Pasadena. Call 626-795-4006.
Most photography Courtesy of: Celestino
Story by Jose Martinez