Mediterranean Dining In Pasadena
Visited: August 12, 2015
Restaurant Type: Mediterranean
Café Santorini, a Mediterranean restaurant in Old Town Pasadena, has always delivered the goods, so when our friend Doug said to meet here for dinner, it was the ultimate dinner “no-brainer.”
Actually, this same group dined here in early 2011, not too long after I got out of the hospital (the good old days when I could eat as much as I wanted since I had lost 55 pounds while on my hospital vacation). The photos above this paragraph are of dishes we had on that evening…yes, I keep everything.
We had 7 p.m. reservations on a Wednesday night, and the place was packed (as it usually is every time we have come here). We’ve been dining here periodically over the past 20 years (it opened its doors in 1993), and Café Santorini is consistently good.
Tracy and I arrived early, plopped down at the bar (yes, shocking) and started with a Tomtini ($9…not on the drink list), which is a self-named cocktail we were introduced to in Siena, Italy, back in 2001. It’s a simple mix of Citrus vodka and a splash of Cointreau or triple Sec…up with a twist. Although the drink recipe seems like a simple one to make, we are not always successful in getting a really good “Tomtini” very often (usually they add too much Cointreau, which makes it too sweet…even for me), but the bartender was right on the mark on this evening.
After our entire group arrived, we were taken outside to a table overlooking the courtyard behind Crate & Barrel. A basket of fresh, warm focaccia was put on the table when we were seated. It didn’t last long.
Andy, who fashions himself as James Bond, spied the 007 Shakin’ martini ($12); Bombay Sapphire, Grey Goose, Lillet Blanc with a citrus twist on the menu. Although it was shaken, it stirred him on to a wonderful evening.
Tracy started with the house salad ($9), which was a little disappointing because it was just an uninspiring mound of greens with a tomato.
Tom and Andy each ordered the toasted walnut and Gorgonzola salad above ($7 small), which was a much better choice. It was very tasty. Jackie decided to go with grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs ($9).
The borek is made with two kinds of phyllo pastry filled with a blend of three cheeses, mint and sesame seeds; and the spanakopita is filled with spinach, onions and feta. It has always been one of my favorite dishes here.
I was going to order the skirt steak special, but the waiter recommended the grilled beef brochette ($24) which was tender and delicious and $5 cheaper than the special. Great call! As it turned out, it was the same special I ordered four years ago (and I took a better picture that night).
Unfortunately we had all filled up too much on salads and appetizers, so we had to pass on dessert, although I will have to return to try the Fresh Berries & Zabaglione; a Grand Marnier infused light custard ladled over seasonal berries ($8).
Café Santorini’s menu also contains a very good selection of pizza, pastas and risottos. There is a Happy hour (Monday – Thursday. 4-7 p.m.; and Friday 4-6 p.m.) where all appetizer selections at the bar are $6; $5 white or red sangria, $6 well drinks, $2 off beer and $2 off house wine by the glass.
The wait staff here has always been top notch, and this night was no different. Valet parking is available on Union ($8 with validation; $10 without). There is also self-parking available across the street in the Parsons garage. The restaurant also has the Rococo Room downstairs from the restaurant that functions as a banquet facility, which can accommodate up to 150 people (or all of TravelsWithMaiTaiTom subscribers…I’m not buying, however).
As always, Café Santorini delivered a quality meal. I’m sure we’ll be back, especially on a warm summer, fall, winter or spring night (which is all we seem to get anymore in Southern California).
Maitaitom rating…4 maitais out of 5
64 West Union Street
(Old) Pasadena, CA 91103
Hours: Sunday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. • Monday – Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday 11: 30 a.m. – 11 p.m. • Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Parking: Valet $8 or garage across the street (first 90 minutes free)