An Untraditional Review for an Untraditional Restaurant
Though the word trattoria means small family restaurant in Italian, this space is anything but.
And though Neapolis is Greek for Naples—perhaps hinting at the fusion of California cuisine and traditional Italian cuisine—this reviewer honestly cannot say because she wasn’t able to ever get a hold of the owner, the mysterious Mr. Perry Vidalakis.
What she can say is the ambiance of Trattoria Neapolis is outdone only by the quality of the food and the wait staff. Every dish is built with handmade Italian basics, and then twisted into something new and divine. Innovative dishes such as Gamberi (wood grilled shrimp, cauliflower, and a red wine vinaigrette) and Prosciutto Benedict (handmade Focaccia, poached eggs and in-house aged prosciutto and Pomodoro Hollandaise), and the insistence on authentic food preparation, including on-site meat curing and bread making, is the reason why this is THE BEST NEW RESTAURANT IN PASADENA.
Trattoria Neapolis has old world class, cutting edge, on trend-specialties, and a focused attention to detail. Even the pickled vegetables for the Bloody Mary cocktail are hand brined. The restaurant’s innovative Italian/American fusion cuisine is by far the best tasted since a visit to Mario Batali’s high-end Westside restaurant—the difference being the visitor will pay a much more reasonable price per plate at Trattoria Neapolis.
Bryant Wigger is the trattoria’s head chef. Hailing originally from Missouri, Wigger made his way through the Southern California high-end hotel restaurant circuit before landing here in Pasadena. Starting in the Hilton family, and then moving on the Ritz in Laguna Niguel, the Four Seasons in Carlsbad and then Beverly Hills, where he was finally swept away by Mr. Vidalakis.
Trattoria Neapolis consistently invests in fun and innovative co-sponsorships, like teaming up with local Girl Scout Troup 14201 to make special desserts using Girl Scout cookies, with all the proceeds going to Families in Transition, or purchasing poinsettias during the holidays from the boys team at Payke Gymnastics Academy to help them raise funds.
Another fun idea is a Friday and Saturday night “speakeasy” that features live music, an $8 menu and half off drinks for the last hour of service. Try to sneak in and have a little adventure. The music selections are probably the best part of the whole thing, and they don’t charge a cover.
By far, the favorite cuisine sampled was the breakfast. This reviewer went back a few times after originally sampling the Bolognese Benedict, a short rib Bolognese concoction tucked under poached eggs and Pomodoro hollandaise. Rich and decadent, this is one of the best ideas to come along in a long time.
The Polenta, Piggy & Eggs is another, which is a slightly less heavy but equally rich morning dish that matches eggs of choice (poached is recommended) with polenta, skewered pork belly, mushrooms, and grana padena. This is a fantastic addition to the usual breakfast selection. And with every dish hand built, one escapes the usual feeling of a cookie cutter and rushed brunch/breakfast.
A great breakfast option to share is the breakfast pizza (also served on the brunch menu), which is good enough to compete with Little Dom’s offering in Los Feliz.
One of the most exceptional aspects of the restaurant is the fast and tasty lunch options. A Half & Half special allows the feaster to select the typical half salad and half sandwich option or something more exciting like the Cannellini Soup and Bolognese pasta, which is incredibly filling. The lunch menu is huge and Zagat rated! Come for lunch if you are in the surrounding area.
The Entrée dinner menu rotates seasonally and monthly. One will find fantastic handmade pizza and pasta options, as well as steak, fish, chicken and pork, and if a patron has a diet restriction or food preference, adjustments can be made. There is truly an option for everyone.
Of course, if nothing on the food menu is found to be appealing, choose the liquid diet. The drinks are amazing with 14 beers on tap that were hand selected by Christina Perotzi from The Beer Chicks. The cocktails are exceptional as well, ranging from the Easton, a house infused cucumber vodka with lime and mint, to the more exotic and unusual but equally delicious Campanula Sour, a grapefruit vodka and St. Germain concoction with lemon, mint and red bell pepper! Whatever your poison, these drinks sing.
If there is one drawback it would be the desserts, which are on the traditional side and more of a seeming afterthought than a focus. Yes, the cookies are handmade, but they aren’t the best cookies in the world, which you would expect after the divine main course you’ve just consumed. This reviewer recommends a nice espresso with fresh fruit if an after sweet is absolutely necessary.
The staff is charming, knowledgeable, and most of all, they understand the importance of great service. The space is beautiful inside and tucked away from the outside, all of which adds to the allure. It’s an ideal spot for everyday lunch and for special events.
Trattoria Neapolis is still building its fan base, with customers trickling in and out all day long, but be aware, this place is going to be packed in the next year.
Trattoria Neapolis, 336 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena. 626.792.3000. California/Italian fusion. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight. TrattoriaNeapolis.com. Reservations recommended for large parties and weekend dinners.