January 2, marked the 14th year in Playa Del Rey for this well known neighborhood hotspot. You can tell from the clientele that they know a good thing because they keep coming back for more.
The décor is lovely and fun, with murals of the Italian coastline on the wall; even the place mats have the map of Italy on them. I was told that until a little while ago they had Christmas lights up all year round. The dining room is a narrow configuration, which makes it all the more cozy. It has lots of fun things to look at and even more fun things to taste!
Here are my favorites:
Garlic Shrimp Antipasto, shrimp sautéed with butter, garlic and olive oil. The flavor is steeped in garlic with bright lemon accents. The shrimp are huge and beautifully butterflied, a big winner.
Calamari Fritti, deep fried calamari served with marinara, done just right, with nice crispy breading and a great sauce.
Caesar Salad Hearts of romaine with shaved Parmesan and croutons. This salad was fantastic; it has a delicious over all taste, and killer dressing.
Eggplant Parmigiana, lightly breaded topped with mozzarella and marinara. The actual eggplant is not smothered in marinara sauce, so you really get to enjoy the goodness of this straight-forward dish.
Home Made Ravioli, portobello mushroom, with porcini cream. Rich, smooth, and luscious is the only way of describing this perfect ensemble.
Gnocchi Salerno, prosciutto, peas, mushrooms in garlic cream sauce, this homemade, and though very rich, it had a way of making me a fan.
Veal Piccata, white wine, capers, and lemon with side of fettuccine Alfredo. The combination of these two together is what I liked most about this dish. This was my favorite, I would order this every time. I would love to know how they made the very inspired mushroom sauce.
Sausage Pizza, great crust, a good easy choice.
My fantastic waiter Roger gave me 4 bottles of wine to try, which my guests and I drank happily.
Hayman & Hill Monterey County 2012, kind of fruity with nice notes of Vanilla, went great with the shrimp appetizer.
Rodney Strong Chardonnay 2012, this wine has a little more caramel, vanilla, tones in it. I would pair this with Calamari or the Caesar salad. It’s a good balance with the tangy vinegar in the salad, and worked great with the batter on the calamari.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Pedroncelli, Dry Creek Sonoma 2011. This wine has cherry and woodsy nuances, got to do this with the mushroom sauce in the Veal Picatta.
Rodney Strong Merlot, Sonoma, 2011, hands down pair this with the sausage and tomatoes in the pizza.
Owner Lisetta Maria – AKA Lisa, is rich in family tradition and culture, and likes to keep the family memories alive through this restaurant and her grandmother’s recipes. His family came from Abruzzi, Italy, her grandmother and grandfather came to America through Ellis Island, and settled in Newton, Massachusetts.
As a child she watched her Grandma Anna Cantalini make wonderful specialties in the kitchen while her grand father Giovanni DiGregorio played the accordion. The same one she has on display near the front of the restaurant. The ravioli and gnocchi are the same recipe that her grandma made many years ago. On Sundays they have live music, which Lisa says she pays tribute to her Grandfather.
The atmosphere is very authentic, and the food will make your taste buds sing. This is definitely a fantastic place for a Sunday night family dinner. Another one of the many great finds during my Staycation here in Playa Del Rey.
Cantalini’s Salerno Beach
183 Culver Blvd · Playa Del Rey