Things happen too quickly sometimes. You look forward to something for a while, and then its gone in a blink of an eye. That’s what the Taste of Italy was for me this year. Even though I spent about 3 hours at the event, I wanted more, but the length of the lines told me otherwise.
With the event being held across from Union Station downtown, it was a breeze to get there using the Red Line. Now that I live in the Valley, I parked my car at the North Hollywood station and took a leisurely trip that lasted about 30 min. Google maps predicted that it would take about 45 min with traffic to drive down, so the $3.00 for the round trip ticket was worth it in more ways than one.
I arrived around 6pm and the place was just starting to noticeably fill up. There was still a noticeable heat in the air, but that quickly changed as day turned into night and air turned slightly brisk. I had planned for the cooler climate that I knew to be coming, but the first 30 min or so was a little uncomfortable. We (my girlfriend and I) promptly got our tickets (6 drink, 6 food, and a water), and headed on in. Our fist mission was to scout out the event to see where all of the food was and places we wanted to hit.
After about 15 minutes of scouting, we dove right into the food. Our first hit was Verace Pizza just outside of the hall. Year after year they always have long lines, so I wanted to get to the pizza early. They do pizza just the way I like it, crispy on the pie, and chewy on the crust. I was a little disappointed by the selection from Drago. After an incredible meal the week before to kick off the month, they were serving a pasta with sausage. Granted, it was very delicious, but seeing what Chef Celestino Drago can do, it was a little underwhelming, but nonetheless, I will be seeing the interior of his restaurant soon enough. Sharing the same table, Celestino (the restaurant) was serving up a panzanella salad that was a hit.
I hit everything on my list but Al Bacio. It was later in the night when I got to their booth and nothing really appealed to me, and they had a seafood salad which I just had about 30 min ago. Out of all of the Italian dishes that one could make, a seafood salad appeared in three different booths. It became the potluck dinner lasagna, there will always be at least two or three of those.
Some of the honorable mentions for the night came from Lago with their Gnocchi di Fonduta in Salsa di Funghi, an incredibly tasty dish. Being Italian, every time I have had Gnocchi, they end up becoming lead weights in my stomach. This dish was light and flavorful. Where are they located again? Ospitalita Italiana had a great seafood salad on bread. When I have had squid, unless it had been turned into calamari, it has been rather chewy or overdone. There is a fine line and this place hit it with the salad. Unfortunately, I felt the bread did it no justice. And for dessert, D’Aquino nailed it with their cannoli and Jonathan Club had a hit with their Spumoni on a Stick. But my winner for the night was Di Stefano Cheese with their Burrata alla Panna: burrata cheese, pesto, and roasted pumpkin seeds served with a piece of warm focaccia bread. I know where I will be grabbing some of their cheese soon!
I guess the more you eat and events you go to, the more you know the same people with the vendors and the other foodies. We ended up at the Sunland Vintage Cellars table on our many trips to get wine and started talking to the people at the booth. Turns out that one of the owners, David, used to work with the guy that is teaching the wine making class that my girlfriend and I are currently going to over the course of a year. And his tasting room is about a mile away from the classroom.. Small world. The winemakers experience will be another blog post in itself, in the middle of next year, stay tuned!
All in all, the Taste of Italy is a great time. I would like to suggest that there be more food taste tickets and less drink tickets, maybe a 2 to 1 ratio would be good. And advertise where the water will be. We were so tired of drinking alcohol by the end and couldn’t find the bottled water. Every other booth had what types of tickets they would accept except the water ticket. I saw several people walking around asking the same question. But, that train ride came in handy on the way back in order to sober up. Either way, I will see you at the next Taste of Italy in 2015!