As the son of a Sicilian immigrant, I was excited to have a chance to go to the Taste of Italy event this year in downtown LA. Images of Italian flags, fare, and music flowed through my mind as I was getting ready to enter the Italian American Museum of LA. As I got to the entrance, the
line of people in a mix of casual, dressy, and the occasionally formal attire stretched before me. When I finally got up to the front of the line to pick up my tasting tickets, I knew that the slim ticket pack of six taste, (three premier tastes or “Q cards” and three regular tastes), and four drink cards would not be enough to satisfy my desires to the try the food of the many booths that lined the inside and outside of the museum.
Armed with my two sets of tickets and an empty stomach, a b-line was made for the premium tasting room. I passed by the courtyard flanked by booths but dominated by a reserved seating area and stage with small orchestra and singer. Pizza, pasta, fish, and roasted veggies danced through my head, as I got closer to my destination. And at last, I was in the middle of this room of sights and smell reminiscent of some of what my mother cooked me when I was younger.
No good Italian could dive straight into a meal without a light appetizer to prepare the stomach for the gastric love to follow, so my night started off with a light plate of prosciutto, salami, mozzarella, and bread with a white wine. My palate successfully transitioned from pedestrian chicken wings and beer while watching football earlier in the day, to the delicate tastings of Italian food and wine, which was laid before me.
Working my way around the premium room there were many varieties of pasta, wines, and even plates for the vegetarian. The plate that stood out to me, if not my favorite of the event, was a truffle mac and cheese from Il Fornaio in Pasadena. Now if you have not had any version of a truffle mac n cheese, I would make this a mission. This dish was creamy full of flavor, and lingered on the palate just long enough not to impose itself on the other taste creations, but made me want more than what was on the tiny tasting plate. Unfortunately, by this time, I was out of the premium Q cards.
Wandering outside, it was again a mix of mostly pastas and pizzas from places like Roma and Village Pizzeria, with a smattering of other dishes like a sausage sandwich from Margarita Bar, and plenty of wines. One of the best slices of pizza came from Verace Pizza, who brought their own brick oven for their Neapolitan pizza. Being a Jersey boy, I love my NY pizza, but out in CA, Neapolitan is where its at! Out of the their two selections, I enjoyed the traditional cheese over the sausage.
Everywhere I turned, someone was pouring their wines, and I gravitated to San Antonio Winery and Viansa wines where I was treated to some nice heavy pours. Since I’m a cabernet sauvignon fan so I gravitated towards their reds, but by the end of the night, there was not much red wine to be seen, but there were plenty of whites.
What could be better than pizza on your plate and wine in your glass while sharing the sounds of Sinatra with about a thousand of food enthusiasts? Not very much. Dining space was at a premium. My friend landed us a spot dining with a nice couple from Venice and Verona (CA and PA respectively). And they echoed the personality of most people there: friendly, eager to talk about their background, and hungry.
Before the night ended I got wind of a great French toast dessert, which everyone was raving about. Turns out it happened to be from Nonna’s Kitchen, a truck that I visited at the LA Food Truck fest at the Rose Bowl in June. This mini French toast with a vanilla bean infused whipped cream was a great way to end the night.
The Taste of Italy was a nice way to spend a Saturday night with friends. Always being partial to the portion sizes; some were heavy, some were light, I tried some things that I liked, and some things that I didn’t. But being a good foodie means that you will try. This yearly event will definitely garner my participation next year and I am already looking forward to it.