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Villa Sorriso Ristorante and Bar in Pasadena

Trendy Italian Seafood in Old Town Pasadena

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Pistachio-Encrusted Halibut at Villa Sorrisa Restaurant in Pasadena

Pistachio-Encrusted Halibut at Villa Sorrisa Restaurant in Pasadena

© 2006 Kayte Deioma, courtesy of www.KayteDeioma.com
Villa Sorriso Ristorante & Bar
168 W. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA
Phone: (626) 793-2233
Hours: Sun – Wed 11:30 am – 11 pm, Thu 11:30 am – midnight, Fri-Sat 11:30 am – 1 am, Sat-Sun brunch 11 am – 3 pm Prices: $$-$$$
Website: www.sorrisopasadena.com


Villa Sorriso is a trendy, upscale restaurant and martini bar at the west end of Old Town Pasadena. The outdoor dining patio includes a fountain and fire pit as well as smoking and dog-friendly areas with heaters for year-round dining.

In addition to indoor and outdoor dining areas, the Villa Sorriso has two downstairs bars, one behind the dining room and the martini bar to the right of the patio, plus the Zebra Lounge, a private party area upstairs. The place gets packed on weekend nights when the young and beautiful flock to the chic martini bar.

They have an extensive menu of primarily Italian fare, heavy on seafood with steak highlights. Many menu items looked tempting, from the Rosemary Chicken - a favorite with the servers – to the Milk-fed Veal Osso Bucco to the Grilled Shrimp and Goat Cheese Pizza. They also offer the basic cheese pizza, lasagna and varieties of pasta. They are particularly known for their Penne alla Vodka.

For Starters

Crab Cakes at Villa Sorrisa

Crab Cakes at Villa Sorrisa Restaurant in Pasadena

© 2006 Kayte Deioma, courtesy of www.KayteDeioma.com
From a list of mostly seafood appetizers, we started with the Crab Cakes ($12) and Garlic-Roasted Mussels ($13). The crab cakes were light and tasty, served with a lobster cream sauce and mango pico de gallo. We weren’t as happy with the garlic-roasted mussels. The white wine and garlic blend didn’t appeal to our taste buds.

The Main Event

I ordered the Pistachio-Crusted Alaskan Halibut ($25) recommended by our waiter. My friend Suzanne chose the Grilled New Zealand Rack of Lamb ($27) with Israeli couscous and garlic spinach – extra rare. We decided to try the Penne alla Vodka ($13) as well to see what the fuss was about.

I’m not always a fan of halibut, but I found the pistachio-coated fish to be quite tender, moist and delectable. The garlic mashed potatoes and spinach were a pleasing complement.

I enjoy lamb, but not as uncooked as Suzanne likes it. She was thrilled that they followed her instructions and delivered the red meat barely seared on the outside. (I did enjoy the lamb chop after I took it home and microwaved it to make sure it was dead.) I was particularly enamored with the Israeli Couscous with dried fruit and nuts. I could have enjoyed it as an entrée on its own. The pinot noir sauce suited the couscous but was a little sweet for the lamb.

I didn’t really like the sound of pasta in vodka sauce, but I decided to give it a try, since it’s the specialty of the house. I still wasn’t sure after the first bite of the tomato cream concoction with a vodka bite, or even the second taste. By the third bite, I was hooked and couldn’t get enough of it. Suzanne and I both found it addictive.

The Afterglow

Villa Sorrisa Restaurant

Apple Crumble and Creme Brulee at Villa Sorrisa Restaurant in Pasadena

© 2006 Kayte Deioma, courtesy of www.KayteDeioma.com
The dessert menu at Villa Sorriso is pure comfort food - brownies, apple crumble, Italian bread pudding, crème brulée, gelato and of course Tiramisu –$8 each. We chose to split a crème brulée and apple crumble a la mode. Both were delicious – the crème brulée light and creamy, the apple crumble rich and comforting like a favorite family recipe. We regretted leaving half of our desserts behind, but they were each big enough for two and more than we could finish.

Note: This story was accurate when it was published. All prices and menu items are subject to change without notice.

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