Category Archives: Italian

Lasagna roll at Pismo Beach eatery is healthy, guilt-free comfort food

The Hand-Rolled Lasagna with Chicken Sausage at Pismo Beach's Graze Kitchen.

The Hand-Rolled Lasagna with Chicken Sausage at Pismo Beach’s Graze Kitchen.

I was not standing in that long line again.

It was about 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon in Pismo Beach, and the number of customers waiting to taste Splash Cafe’s award-winning clam chowder was quickly increasing. I already did the 40-minute wait for the popular restaurant’s creamy, rich chowder nestled in a warm sourdough bread bowl the night before.

(Related: Fancy fruit tarts, unbelievable clam chowder and more, Everywhere, California)

The traffic on the sidewalks and streets was getting heavier as more beach-goers were coming into the popular coastal town, so I decided to head back to Silicon Valley sooner than I wanted in order to make good time.

As I was walking to my car, I came across Graze Kitchen, a “farm and sea to table” restaurant that has a menu boasting several vegetarian and vegan entrees. Since I pigged out on delicious, high-calorie chowder the night before, I figured my belly deserved something a little healthier. And it was already grumbling.

The Hand-Rolled Lasagna with Chicken Sausage at Pismo Beach's Graze Kitchen.

The Hand-Rolled Lasagna with Chicken Sausage at Pismo Beach’s Graze Kitchen.

Dish of Choice

The gentleman who took my order, who I assumed was the owner, was very descriptive about the food and was clearly passionate about the craft of cooking.

I was convinced to try one of the day’s specials, a hand-rolled lasagna made with chicken sausage. It was filled with mozzarella, tomato sauce, spinach and onion. The lasagna roll was accompanied with a side salad dressed in vinaigrette. My bill came out to about $12, including tax.

The Taste

This dish was enjoyable because it felt like nothing but good, wholesome ingredients were going into my body. It was comfort food without the guilt.

The chicken sausage had a smoky, spicy kick, and the noodle was tender. There was a good portion of fresh spinach and onions, which were not mushy or overcooked, and the tomatoes were hearty and fresh.

It was just enough food without leaving me feeling stuffed, which I appreciated with the three-hour drive ahead of me.

Side salad with parmesan, arugula and vinaigrette at Pismo Beach's Graze Kitchen.

Side salad with parmesan, arugula and vinaigrette at Pismo Beach’s Graze Kitchen.

Other Details

The restaurant seemed to have a good sense of humor about itself, as evidenced by some of the signs on the walls: “I love tourist, taste like chicken!” and “No working during drinking hours.”

It was a relaxing, comforting atmosphere, and there was an open kitchen in front so customers could see the staff preparing their food. That kind of transparency was welcoming.

Graze Kitchen is located at 841 Dolliver St. in Pismo Beach. The restaurant prides itself on using local, organic and sustainable ingredients and offers tastings of California-made wines and beers.

Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and the restaurant is available for private parties on Mondays and Tuesdays. For more information, call (805) 773-4024 or visit

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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in comfort food, food, Italian, Pismo Beach


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Leftovers: Gumba’s Italian restaurant delivers big portions, but something is missing

The side of Rigatoni from Gumba's in Sunnyvale.

The side of Rigatoni from Gumba’s in Sunnyvale.

At some point in all of our dining-out journeys, we encounter a restaurant that delivers on quantity but struggles in quality.

I encountered this scenario at Gumba’s in Sunnyvale, which boasts popular menu items such as Spinach Ravioli, Chicken Parmigiana and Vegetarian Lasagna Dela Casa. I hate wasting food, so I took this as an opportunity to reuse some leftovers and turn them into a meal that I could enjoy.

Dish of Choice

I chose Gumba’s because it was one of the restaurants featured on the select menu for downtown Sunnyvale’s Jazz & Beyond, an event where people can enjoy outdoor dining while listening to local musicians along the Historic Murphy Avenue.

I was hoping one of my favorite restaurants – Tarragon – would be featured on the menu because I was craving its Salmon entree with garlic mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and sauce made with olive oil, lemon and herbs. Tarragon wasn’t part of the menu, so I chose Gumba’s, which was featuring its Grilled Salmon with Roasted Vegetables for about $17, plus tax.

Making zucchini rigatoni out of my leftovers.

Making zucchini rigatoni out of my leftovers.

The Taste

To Gumba’s credit, the restaurant gave me a lot of food for what I paid. In addition to my entree, I also received a choice of soup or salad – I chose salad – two pieces of garlic bread and a side of rigatoni.

That being said, I did not enjoy my meal, therefore there is a lack of photos. The salmon was overcooked and lacked succulence and flavor; the salad was just romaine lettuce and a big slice of tomato, and the side of ranch was thin and runny; the garlic bread was hard and did not taste fresh; and the vegetables lacked that toasty look and flavor that comes with roasted vegetables.

Doctoring the leftovers

I took the remaining vegetables, salad, rigatoni and garlic bread home, determined to create something new the next day.

(Check out this video: Gumba’s Leftovers)

The rigatoni was tender, but there wasn’t much sauce. Luckily, I had some fresh zucchini on hand, so I chopped it up and sauteed it with a tablespoon of butter on low heat on a stove. I covered the skillet with a lid and occasionally stirred the zucchini for about 5 or so minutes (I didn’t want the zucchini to get too mushy).

My creation made from my leftovers from Gumba's in Sunnyvale.

My creation made from my leftovers from Gumba’s in Sunnyvale.

After the zucchini was at the right amount of tenderness, I tossed the rigatoni into the skillet with the zucchini. I added a couple dashes of garlic powder and minced onion, along with pinches of salt and pepper. I covered the skillet with the lid and cooked the dish for another 5 or so minutes, stirring occasionally.

I plated my zucchini rigatoni and sprinkled it with herb and garlic feta. I also tried to revitalize the garlic bread by re-toasting it in the skillet with butter. However, the bread was already hard before, so re-toasting it just made it tougher.

However, I enjoyed the rigatoni. The zucchini added some needed freshness and the garlic powder and minced onion woke up the pasta sauce. I love cheese on my pasta, so I think the strong flavor of feta went a long way.

Overall, I’d say it was a leftover success.

In what creative ways have you reused restaurant leftovers? Feel free to comment below, but keep it civil, please :-).


Posted by on July 22, 2015 in comfort food, food, Italian, leftovers


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Pesto and feta chicken crepe worth the wait at Mountain View’s Crepevine

Close-up of the Tuscany crepe at Mountain View's Crepevine.

Close-up of the Tuscany crepe at Mountain View’s Crepevine.

Whenever I venture out for brunch on a Sunday morning in the Bay Area, I always have to remind myself to have a snack before I go.

This helps prepare for the long wait that is bound to happen, and I tend to become increasingly hangry (that feeling of anger due to hunger) after the first 20 minutes of waiting for a table.

This past Fourth of July weekend, the line was out the door at Mountain View’s Crepevine, known for using fresh, organic and locally-grown ingredients. We had 10 ladies in our party, and I didn’t grab my snack (ugh).

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the waitstaff. It took about 25 minutes before I got to the counter to order my food, but the staff was already setting up our table while we waited in line. Although the place was crowded, the staff had a great handle on traffic control and getting diners to their seats in a timely fashion.

The Tuscany crepe at Mountain View's Crepevine.

The Tuscany crepe at Mountain View’s Crepevine.

Dish of Choice

I ordered the Tuscany, a crepe filled with chicken breast, mushrooms, tomatoes, roasted almonds, provolone, feta and pesto. The dish is served with potatoes or fries (I chose fries) and organic mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette. A gluten-free option is available for $1 more.

Along with a glass of sangria, my order cost about $22.

The Taste

Crepevine did not skimp on the ingredients. My crepe was jam-packed with tender chicken, which was moist and savory from the rich-flavored pesto. The pesto was a bit on the thin side, but it made for a great marinade for the chicken.

The crepe itself was light and crisp on the edges, and there was a generous amount of strong, hearty feta. The almonds added a toasty flavor and interesting texture to the dish. The fries were thickly cut, crispy on the outside and not greasy.

The Sangria at Mountain View's Crepevine.

The Sangria at Mountain View’s Crepevine.

The mixed salad was a welcomed fresh and light contrast to the rich, thick crepe, which was big enough to split with another person, in my opinion. There was a lot of food for a good price, and I took half of the entree home for later.

The sangria was strong, but not knock-you-on-your-butt strong, and there were plenty of fruit slices to add a great tropical flavor. I was hoping the restaurant had a white wine sangria because the red wine version tends to be a bit heavy for warm, summer weather. It was still a good cocktail worth trying.

Other Details

Crepevine has 10 locations throughout the San Francisco/San Jose Bay Area. The Mountain View restaurant is located at 300 Castro St. For more information, call the Mountain View location at (650) 969-6878 or visit


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Vibrant combinations of bruschetta please the eyes and palate at San Mateo wine cafe

The bruschetta appetizer at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Bruschetta appetizer at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

Up until last Saturday, I thought of bruschetta as a relatively plain dish – tomatoes and basil on top of bite-sized pieces of toast.

San Mateo’s B Street and Vine proved me wrong and helped me gain a better appreciation for the classic Italian appetizer.

The quaint wine cafe has more than 15 combinations of bruschetta to choose from, including Gorgonzola cheese & honey and ricotta with dates & pistachios. Bruschetta lovers should be pleased by what B Street & Vine has to offer.

The Autostrada Panini at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Autostrada Panini at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

Dish of Choice

My friends and I ordered the bruschetta to split. Diners can choose four combinations, so we ordered the following: salami with feta and pesto; olive tapenade, cucumbers, tomato and feta; red pepper remoulade with tomato, feta and basil (I obviously enjoy the strong, salty taste of feta); and mango, tomato, cilantro and avocado. A plate of bruschetta ranges from $12 to $16, depending on if you want some the restaurant’s more premium ingredients or gluten-free bread when available.

For dinner, I ordered the Autostrada Panini, made with four Italian meats: soppresata, prosciutto, salami and mortadella. It was dressed with tomatoes, provolone and pesto and served on grilled ciabatta roll.

Guests can also choose sliced sour bread, or gluten-free bread, when available, for $2 extra, according to the cafe’s website. The panini came with a side salad or kettle chips. Trying to be somewhat healthy, I went with the side salad. My entree cost $8.50. Our table also split a bottle of Riesling Kabinett from Germany for $25.

The Autostrada Panini at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Autostrada Panini at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Taste

The bruschetta was the standout item of the night. The bread was cut into shareable pieces, was perfectly toasted on the edges and soft and hearty on the inside.

My favorite combination was the salami, feta and pesto. I love Italian meats like salami because they typically have a more distinct bite and peppery taste than regular cold cuts. The pungent taste of feta paired well with the pesto, which was smooth and rich in flavor.

I also enjoyed the mango, tomato, cilantro and avocado. I’ve always liked the creamy texture of avocado, and the mango was sweet and juicy without making the bread soggy.

The Riesling Kabinett at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Riesling Kabinett at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

As for the panini, I thought having four different Italian meats on one sandwich would bog it down, make it messy and be over-the-top in saltiness. But the meats were cut in manageable, thin slices and placed neatly on the sandwich, and there was just enough ingredients without feeling stuffed or dehydrated. Just like the bruschetta, the bread was soft on the inside with just the perfect amount of grilling on the outside.

The Riesling was light and sweet, and the honey and apricot flavors were prominent. It wasn’t quite sugary enough to be a dessert wine, but it was close. If you like your wines more on the sweeter side, this wine is worth a try.

Other Details

For those who enjoy wine but are also looking for a bargain, B Street & Vine has some good specials throughout the week. Any glass of wine is half-off from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to its website. Diners can also get wine by the glass for half-off on Monday nights with a purchase of any entree.

B Street & Vine also has patio dining and live music from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday. I will admit that the seating we got was a bit tight, but that might be to create more of an intimate atmosphere. Plus, it was a Saturday, which is a popular dining night. The live music was also at the right volume, so I didn’t have to shout in order to talk to my friends. Overall, it was an enjoyable night.

B Street & Vine is located at 320 S. B Street in San Mateo. For hours, music schedule and more information, call (650) 347-8463 or visit or

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Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Italian, sandwiches, wine


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Tender, roasted lemon wings bring peppery spiciness at Amici’s, known for brick-oven pizza

The Flame Roasted Lemon Chicken Wings at Amici's East Coast Pizzeria in Cupertino.

The Flame Roasted Lemon Chicken Wings at Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria in Cupertino.

Dining out while counting calories has proven to be a challenge the last few weeks. The foods you assume are low-calorie and low-fat end up being the exact opposite, and it can be a startling revelation.

So when a friend of mine wanted to go to Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria in Cupertino for dinner, I was a bit apprehensive. Pizza is not a low-calorie food (at least not the good kind).

I was pleasantly surprised to find Amici’s has dishes that aren’t completely going to tip the scale, and taste delicious at the same time.

Dish of Choice

We decided to share two items: The flame roasted lemon chicken wings, marinated in the kitchen’s special blend of spices and roasted in a brick oven; and a small margherita pizza, made with mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil.

We ordered the 10-piece spicy wing platter, and for the pizza we chose the tomato sauce, which is optional. Altogether, the cost for the wings and pizza was about $27.

Side note: In total, five of the wings were 240 calories, while two small slices of margherita pizza were 242 calories, according to my MyFitnessPal app.

The Margherita Pizza at Amici's East Coast Pizzeria in Cupertino.

The Margherita Pizza at Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria in Cupertino.

The Taste

The meat on the wings was tender, and the seasoning was peppery with just enough spice to wake you up and clear the sinuses a little bit.

I also loved that the chef sprinkled the wings with a generous amount of cilantro to give it that extra fresh flavor (I love cilantro!) Just be prepared to get peppery seasoned goodness all over your hands. Wings are supposed to be a little messy.

Amici’s is known for making its pizza in a 700-degree brick oven, which produces a crispy, toasty thin crust. If you’re a big thin-crust pizza fan, you should give Amici’s a try.

I liked how the crust had a slight charring on the edges and bottom. There wasn’t a lot of tomato sauce used on the pizza, but I didn’t mind because what it lacked in quantity, it made up for in hearty flavor. Plus, with a thin crust, you don’t want a large quantity of sauce to bog it down and make it soggy.

Other Details

Amici’s is a California chain with about a dozen locations, mostly in the San Francisco/San Jose Bay Area. The restaurant offers online ordering and catering, and also has a gluten-free menu.

The Cupertino restaurant is located at 10310 S. De Anza Blvd, and hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call the restaurant at (408) 252-3333 or visit

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Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Italian, pizza, wings


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