Hello Avenue Italy!

I recently a wonderful birthday dinner at Avenue Italy.

Located in Rancho Palos Verdes is Avenue Italy; a restaurant offering authentic and delicious Italian cuisine by  Chef Mario Zanetti. Chef Mario was previously Lead Chef for La Stada Restaurant in Los Angeles and now he heads up this wonderful restaurant. Avenue Italy is also the sister restaurant of another favorite South Bay place of mine, Yellow Vase.

Having my birthday dinner here was truly a wonderful experience. The place transports you right into the heart of Italy with its beautiful setup and decor as well as their amazing Italian cuisine.

We started off our meal here with  Caprese e melanzane.

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This starter came with three lovely tomatoes stacked with grilled eggplant and fresh mozzarella. It was then topped off with pesto. This simple Italian dish was a perfect first course. The grilled eggplant was nicely grilled and not charred. The spread of pesto was just right and not overwhelming. It gave the right amount of flavor to the dish.

Our second course consisted of the Beet salad

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This salad was one of my favorites of the night. It had mix greens topped with oven roasted beets, candied walnuts, dried cranberries and feta cheese. The dressing was a house balsamic vinaigrette. I am a big fan of beets but in many other restaurants, I have noticed beets tend to be large pieces that end up becoming the star of the plate. Here at Avenue Italy, they made their salad so that the beets would mix perfectly with the other ingredients. Small square beets were mixed in with the candied walnuts and dried cranberries and the feta cheese was sprinkled on top. Together these ingredients made of a sweet lovely salad.

For my main course, I chose to get the waiter’s recommendation, Pollo e prosciutto

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It was chicken rollatini with prosciutto and rosemary and vodka sauce. It was served with seasonal vegetables and roasted yukon potatoes. I originally was afraid that the prosciutto may overpower this dish but it did not at all! In fact there was just slight hint of prosciutto and the chicken was main star of the dish. It was tender and perfectly flavored with the rosemary and vodka sauce. I also loved their flavorful roasted yukon potatoes. This was great dish paired with their white chardonnay.

What’s a birthday without a birthday cake or dessert? Our last dish of the night was Avenue Italy’s tiramisu.

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Tiramisu is a classic Italian dessert and here they really did this Italian delight justice. The coffee-flavoured Italian dessert was delightfully light. Wonderful flavor of cocoa with just the right hint of liqueur-spiked espresso and sweet mascarpone and whipped cream. This was truly a perfect ending to a wonderful birthday dinner.

Avenue Italy was simply lovely and I loved celebrating here.
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Hello Joey’s Italian Restaurant!

Whenever I travel, I try to find the best eateries that the town has to offer. My Hello Kitty Foodie adventures wouldn’t be complete without it. On my first night in New York; I’m so happy to say that I found what has to be one of the best Italian restaurants in the town of Syracuse.

Joey’s Italian Restaurant is located in Syracuse, New York at Carrier Circle. They’ve been serving up fine Italian American cuisine since 1982 via two restaurants under one roof. Upstairs lies Pronto Joey’s which offers a casual Italian American fare. Downstairs is Joey’s Classic Italian dining that has a more formal fine dining setting.

I had the pleasure of dining at Joey’s Classic Italian and was mesmerized by the beautiful setting the moment I walked in. With its cherry wood furniture, dim lighting and perfectly set tables; the place is intimate and beautiful.

Their menu is equivalent in exquisiteness and filled with an array of fresh made pastas with veal, beef, poultry and seafood. Each of their sauces is handcrafted right in the heart of New York.

Each meal here starts off with a fresh-baked basket of bread that is accompanied with their housemade garlic butter and an olive oil and balsamic dip.

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Joey’s housemade garlic butter is reason enough to go here as it definitely one of the tastiest garlic butters I have ever had. The velvety butter perfectly melts on the warm bread and is quite addicting. It has just the right hint of garlic to it.

Each pasta speciality also comes with Joey’s house salad.

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The house salad is a delightful starter filled with a good variety of vegetables. There are tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, chick peas and mixed greens. Dressing choices include honey mustard, ranch, raspberry vinagrette, balsamic vinagrette, Caesar and parmesan.

Though one can easily get full with the warm bread and crisp salad; one definitely needs to save room for Joey’s homemade pastas. The pasta menu consists of homemade dishes such as lasagna, cannelloni, ravioli, fettuccine and lasagna. There is also house specialities.

One such house speciality is the Tortellini Carbonara.

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The Tortellini Carbonara has pork and beef filled pasta with sautéed Italian prosciutto. The sauce consists of asiago cheese, egg and cream. It’s one creamy dish and the tortellini will practically melt in your mouth.

Another house speciality is the Chicken Tetrazini.

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The Chicken Tentrazini has Joey’s housemade noodles topped with a breast of chicken sautéed with mushrooms, roasted red peppers and peas. The sauce is a light cream sauce. The mushrooms, red peppers and peas bring so much flavor along with the tender chicken breast. The light cream sauce is just right. This dish is definitely one of my favorites at Joey’s.

Not only are the pasta dishes homemade, the desserts are as well! The sweets menu is equally is an impressive and consists of favorite Italian sweets like tiramisu and cannoli along side classic desserts; carrot cake, cheesecake, citrus cake and creme brûlée.

It is very had to pass on a good creme brûlée and decided to try Joey’s version.

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Joey’s creme brûlée was indeed a wonderful ending to a wonderful dinner. On the bottom of the soft creme brûlée is rich Bailey’s chocolate. This creme brûlée is finished off with fresh cream and a fresh strawberry. The creme brûlée is silky-smooth. The rich Bailey’s chocolate is a sweet surprise and brings another depth to the dessert.

In my quest to find some of the best eateries in town, I think I succeeded in my first night in New York with the charming Joey’s Italian in Syracuse.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Joey’s Italian.

Hello Jimmy’s Kouzina!

It is on my vacation bucket list to see the sights of Santorini, Greece and walk the beautiful town of Venice, Italy. Perhaps one day, I’ll visit those wonderful places but in the meantime I get to have a little taste of Greece and Italy; thanks to Jimmy’s Kouzina.

Jimmy’s Kouzina is lovely restaurant located at the heart of Manhattan Beach. Specializing in Italian and Greek food; this eatery has been serving the South Bay since 1984. It was formerly named Old Venice but now has a new name via Jimmy’s Kouzina. The restaurant is renamed in honor of owner and chef Jimmy Hantzarides and is currently owned and operated by his family; wife Julie and children Natalie and Andrew.

Chef Jimmy’s legacy lives on with homestyle cooking and fresh made food inspired by his Greek upbringing. The food here at Jimmy’s Kouzina is truly special and upon my visit here, I saw that.

I started off my meal here with one of their meze (appetizer) dishes; the Spanakopitas.

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Spanakopitas are a traditional Greek appetizer and Jimmy’s Kouzina does a wonderful version with crispy file dough triangles stuffed with spinach and feta. I loved how they added an Italian twist with having marinara sauce as a dipping sauce. This was the start of a wonderful meal and the best was yet to come.

For our main dishes; we started off with another traditional Greek plate; Chicken Gyros Shawarma.

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All plates come with choices of two sides. Our chosen sides were yellow squash and rice pilaf. These two sides matched perfectly with the tender strips of chicken gyros. Another perfect pairing were the pita bread and tzatziki. Flavorful and fulfilling; it was  agreed feast indeed.

From traditional Greek we went with a fusion dish next via their Santorini Special.

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As I mentioned up front in this post; I’ve always dreamed of going to Santorini and so the name of this dish really caught my eye. The other thing that caught my eye however was all the special ingredients in this dish! It’s penne pasta tossed in olive oil, basil, tomatoes, garlic clove with a touch marinara sauce. It is topped with pieces of Gyro meat and feta and parmesan cheeses. It’s an Italian pasta with a lot of Greek flavors. I liked the incorporation of the Gyro meat in this dish and loved the blend of traditional parmesan cheeses and feta. This dish is very innovative and creative and is wonderful reflection of what Chef Andrew’s dishes are all about.

From the savory to sweet; we were in for more treats this day. Being a big coffee fan; I was ecstatic to see a full menu of various coffee delights. Greek coffee, Freddo Espresso, Affogato and more; my coffee crush was in full swing. My choice for this day was the Mochaccino.

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The Mochaccino is a four layer chocolate cappuccino. With a shot of espresso and chocolate milk; this drink was rich, smooth and simply divine. It was the perfect drink to go along with our chosen dessert; baklava.

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We started our meal here with crispy filo dough treats and we ended our meal here with more crispy filo dough treats. The baklava consisted of crispy layers of filo dough and walnuts in simple syrup. It was drizzled with sweet honey. To the side were some fresh fruit and whipped cream. It was truly a sweet ending to a lovely meal.

Each dish I tried was full of flavor and creative.  It’s rare to find a place with great Greek food in the South Bay and even rarer to find a place with great Greek and Italian food with some Mediterranean flare. Jimmy’s Kouzina is special indeed.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Jimmy’s Kouzina

Hello North Italia @ The Point!

Ever since I saw The Point being built El Segundo, California, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opening of the eateries that would be housed there. Some of the most popular restaurants would now have a home in the South Bay! Finally the time has come for The Point to open up! This is The Point’s grand opening week and one by one the new restaurants are opening up. One of the first restaurant to open it’s doors this week is North Italia.

The very first North Italia opened up in 2002 and they specialize in handmade pizzas and pastas. The theme of the restaurants is “A love letter to Italy” where every thing is handmade with love.

Today I got to experience North Italia for a lunch out and try first hand their made from scratch lovely dishes.

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Stepping in to this North Italia, one cannot help but feel an instant love for the restaurant. It is beautiful inside. There are huge hanging lights up above and a really nice open kitchen in the back. The dark wood interior gives a beautiful classy feel. Diners can also choose to dine outside, a choice that my friend and I made. Pretty flower vases adorn the wooden tables outside.

To match the lovely look of the restaurant is their lovely menu consisting of small plates, pizzas, sandwiches, salads and main entrees.

To start, I got to try the Grilled Cauliflower small plate. It’s a wonderfully plated dish with fried egg, baby asparagus, toasted bread crumbs, pancetta cream and lemon.

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The taste of the lemon is instant at first bite of this dish. The runny egg offsets the lemon and gives a unique take on this dish. It’s one of the most interesting takes I’ve ever seen.

Another appetizer I got to try here is the Arancini.  It is crispy mushroom risotto stuffed with scamorza cheese and served with red sauce. This appetizer is heaven with every bite. The cheese and risotto oozes out of the crispy coated balls.

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For our main lunch entrée, my friend and I tried their Margherita Pizza.

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It’s a classic Margherita with mozzarella, fresh basil, olive oil and red sauce. With its hot baked dough, crispy edges and fresh mozzarella the pizza was one lovely pizza.

I love the concept of North Italia and their fresh take on Italian cuisine. Handmade with love, North Italia has found a happy place in Hello Kitty Foodie’s heart.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review of North Italia.

P.S North Italia is the sister restaurant to another eatery at The Point, True Food Kitchen (blog post for True Food Kitchen coming soon ;).

Hello to one last meal @ Vince’s!

Back in April, I wrote a story for South Bay Foodies about Vince’s in Torrance closing their doors after four decades.

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When I first heard the news, I could not help be a bit sad. I have very fond memories of going to Vince’s with my family. It was always a treat to dine here when I was younger and it was a restaurant that I always looked forward to going to. It was slated to close last April but luckily they extended their stay for a bit longer. Alas’ however the time for them to close was still lingering around the corner. Sadly, today was that day. Today was the day for one last meal at Vince’s. In this blog post, I look back at the delicious food that were favorites for many that dined at Vince’s.

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A good meal at Vince’s always started with their homemade vegetable beef soup. The soup was so heartwarming with the warm broth, tender little chunks of beef, crispy celery and carrots.

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Alongside with the soup, was Vince’s salad with choice of dressing.

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After, soup and salad, customers would get serve Vince’s bread. Restaurant go-ers had the choice of either garlic and cheese bread. The bread here always came out so fresh, hot and tasty. The garlic had the distinct garlic flavor at first bite. The cheese bread had a nice, sharp cheddar taste. Soft middle, crispy on the outside, it was a perfect match for their pastas!

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For the pastas, Vince’s offered all the classic Italian favorites of spaghetti, ravioli and lasagna. Their pasta dishes came with choice of meat sauce or sicilian style sauce.

The ravioli are soft ravioli squares filled with cheese. They were little squares big in taste.

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The lasagna dish was my personal favorite. From childhood until now, it for me tops the list of the best lasagna I’ve ever had. The layers of soft pasta with cheese and meat in between and topped with the hearty sicilian style / meat sauce was always so fulfilling and heavenly.

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For those looking for a triple treat, Vince’s offered “Misto de Tre” with spaghetti, lasagna and ravioli. It was all of their classics in one dish. It was a big treat to be shared!

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Last but not least was the dessert at Vince’s! Among their desserts were gelato truffles, cheesecake, cannoli and spumoni. The spumoni at Vince’s was a must treat. The cherry, pistachio and chocolate flavored ice cream filled with cherry fruits was creamy, sweet and a perfect way to end a delicious meal.
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This weekend I went back to Vince’s and had my favorite Vince’s food of vegetable soup, lasagna and spumoni one last time. I could not help be a bit nostalgic during this meal and remember fond memories of times spent with family at Vince’s. Even writing this post now, I am somewhat sad knowing their will be no place serving Italian food in the South Bay quite the same.

Thank you to Vince’s for the delicious food that we got to eat through the years, the happy dining out with friends and family and for being a favorite place in the South Bay. When the lights at Vince’s go out tonight for one last time, a little piece of our foodie hearts will go with it.

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