Celestino, another outpost of the Drago family, is located on a busy street in Pasadena. Entering the room, however, transports you straight to Italy. Men argue affably in Italian at the bar, the bread is crusty, the butter is pure, and the tablecloths are naturally spotless.
Watching platters pass by bursting with seafood made me feel a little bit like a poor relation with my limited dineLA menu. But a good chef can take pauper’s food and elevate it, so I wasn’t too concerned. I started out with Bread Soup. A drizzle of olive oil glistened atop the bright red tomato. I lifted the shimmering spoon to my lips and it tasted…bland. I looked around furtively and reached for the salt shaker. I don’t think I have ever salted a chef’s food. But Chef Celestino was probably not there for lunch service. The salt helped, but it just isn’t tomato season yet. I didn’t even eat the soup. It may feel like summer, but you can’t fool a tomato.
Luckily, the mushrooms were up to the task of shaming the tomatoes. My Porcini Risotto was earthy an rich with the pure essence of porcini. The rice was barely al dente, and the creamy dish did more than make up for the soup. After my plate was cleared, I thought, “Well, I’m not going to spend $22 on lunch and leave hungry” so I reached for more of the fabulous crusty bread. The staff knew I was in a rush since there is only 1 hour parking on Lake. The waiter said, “I would like to bring you your dessert” and whooossshhh a murder of waiters descended on the table, and everything was whisked away, even my freshy buttered bite of bread.
I will say this, panna cotta is definitely in season.