A PASADENA INSTITUTION THRIVES
Folks who know their Old Town Pasadena history are well aware that before it became a trendy area, it was more ghost town than dining destination. And back in the day, the only businesses on sleepy Colorado Boulevard worth a visit were Cheesecake Factory and Mi Piace.
Since then, the street has erupted into a busy neighborhood filled with shoppers, diners and revelers. And Mi Piace, a family-run favorite for Italian fare, has not only stood the test of time but thrived.
For over 25 years, Mi Piace, which translates to “I like it” in Italian, has been a go-to place for eats as well as spot to hangout. Beloved for its Italian kitchen, bakery and lounge, it is part old school restaurant and part nightclub when the lounge is filled as a DJ takes the party mood into overdrive.
During our recent visit for dinner on a packed Friday night, the food was fine and the drinks surprisingly quite dynamic. A sensational starter item that absolutely delighted was the
Crostini Con Ricotta as handmade, fresh lemon zest ricotta with extra virgin olive oil, herbs and fleur de sel served with grilled ciabatta crostini was out-of-this-world good.
The Torre di Tonna came highly recommended but seemed somewhat out of place in an Italian restaurant. Prepared with sashimi grade Ahi tuna, this tuna tower dish with sesame oil, jalapeño, soy sauce, sweet mirin, sake, rice vinegar, fresh cilantro, cucumber, avocado and red onion served on crispy wontons is both hit and miss as it was delightful but there are probably more daring and traditional menu options to choose from.
Most recently, the cocktail menu has been revamped by Josh Suchan of Ice and Alchemy (a cocktail consultancy firm) and new libation options include The Best Ever Gin & Tonic (it isn’t), as well as winners like The Influencer with Joven Illegal Mezcal, Dobel Blanco Tequila Sfumato, Amaro, grapefruit peel, juniper berries, pink peppercorns, rose petal, and the Smoke on the Water with Wheatley Vodka, Aperol, St. Germain, and aromatic fog.
One thing that needs to be said about the bar program and its cocktails is The Italian Job. Made with Angel’s Envy Bourbon, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Amaro Montenegro, Miracle Mile toasted pecan-bitters and apple wood smoke, it is way too similar to another beloved Pasadena smoky cocktail for mere coincidence. I don’t know who takes the credit (or blame) for this drink but making a good drink when you’ve copied another bar’s signature cocktail is shadier than being innovative.
I don’t normally order lasagna when I dine at Italian restaurants. I always think about it as it seems to be the perfect classic dish to judge the kitchen but I just don’t do it. But I did at Mi Piace, not once but twice.
The Lasagna di Carne with handmade fresh pasta layered with beef, fresh herbs, ricotta and mozzarella topped with San Marzano marinara sauce was a solid choice, but the Lasagna di Pollo with handmade fresh pasta with chicken, cilantro and ricotta cheese topped with roasted red bell pepper fresh dill sauce was not just a home run, no, we’re talking game-winning grand slam. I did not expect that. Chicken lasagna? Are you kidding me? Yup, this was an absolute favorite.
A dish that was expected to delight and did just that was the Osso Bucco di Vitello where a 16oz slow braised veal shank served with mushroom risotto is knock you out. The veal was divine and the risotto straight from heaven. This one did not disappoint.
And if you’re going to make a real night out of it, then you might as well go for broke with dessert. And the Chocolate Soup, a Mi Piace signature, is a decadent dynamo as this bittersweet Belgian chocolate soufflé, served with a side of Chantilly cream, is what a diet-busting dessert is all about.
Classic dessert options like Crème Brûlée, caramelized French custard with fresh vanilla beans and orange zest, and Tiramisu, espresso and Kahlua dipped ladyfinger cookies layered with sweet Mascarpone cream, definitely deliver.
At Mi Piace, Pasadena history is still being made as this venerable institution is still delighting guest old and new offering a vibrant setting to sip and savor the finer things.
Mi Piace is located at 25 E. Colorado Boulevard. Open daily. Weekend brunch from 8am to 2pm. Lunch served daily from 11am to 4pm. Dinner served daily from 4pm to close. Call 626-795-3131.
Story By: Jose Martinez
Photography By: Acuna-Hansen