So Much More Than Just Pasta in a Blue Box
f you know pasta, then you’ll instantly recognize the name of South Coast Plaza’s newest culinary addition. Casa Barilla— as in the #1 selling pasta in Italy— is easily identified by its signature cobalt blue label. Located directly next to Sears, Casa Barilla is a fast-casual concept that serves authentic Italian cuisine. The pasta giant (established in 1877) owns three successful restaurants in New York. This location marks the first in the West, and it’s fresh, wholesome menu compliment the way Southern Californians like to eat.
EAT LIKE AN ITALIAN
At Casa Barilla, you won’t find dishes weighed down with cheese and heavy cream. That’s because Italians don’t eat that way, and Casa Barilla is an authentic experience where freshness takes center stage. Casa Barilla’s Chief Executive Chef Alfonso Sanna proclaimed a message central to Barilla’s philosophy, “The Italian way of eating is the healthiest in the world.” Indeed, Mediterranean diets are rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruit and olive oil. It’s a heart-healthy diet Italians proudly follow.
I spoke with Chef Sanna about the bounty of fresh produce available to Southern Californians, “It’s incredible!” he exclaimed. Without even having to ask, his produce vendors delivered local Californian vegetables and fruit. Just like where he grew up in Southern Italy, produce doesn’t travel far to get to the table, “Great meals start by carefully selecting what’s fresh,” Sanna said.
Written on the back of each menu is founder Pietro Barilla’s words: “Give people the food you would give to your own children.”
MAKE THE PASTA YOU WANT TO EAT
Casa Barilla offers made-to-order pasta, pizza, panini, soup, salads, and desserts— all in the $7.50-$14.95 price range. The salads are crisp, the pasta flavors are light and bright, and the menu is customizable. Gluten-free pasta? Absolutely. Barilla makes a gluten-free pasta made from corn and rice flours that isn’t at all slimy or gritty. They also make a “Protein Plus” pasta enriched with legumes, that Sanna said was first launched into the market as a way to introduce more veggies into children’s diets. He has a three-year-old and can personally attest to this.
Chef Sanna offers a guilt-free Italian menu that doesn’t lack the flavor or comfort synonymous with Italian cuisine. Calorie counts are even listed on the menu to help you make informed choices. I envision even the pickiest family of eaters finding precisely what makes each of them happy.
Choose from a variety of stone-oven-baked pizza with customizable dough. The Ortolana Pizza, for instance, is a veggie-lovers’ delight, made with Casa Barilla’s blend of wheat and whole grain dough, tomatoes, mozzarella, and seasonal vegetables (mine had squash, peppers, and eggplant). It’s hearty and satisfying and not at all greasy.
Eating family-style is the Italian way. The long table near the kitchen (where you can watch chefs in action) caters to a pass-and-share style. Pizza’s are served on top of pizza peels and are square-shaped (this is how Italians make their pizza at home; round is for restaurants). Furthermore, the Spaghetti e Polpettine (spaghetti with tomato-basil sauce and homemade meatballs) comes in a large version served in a heavy-bottomed pot that’s placed directly on your table- just like Nonna would do.
Even the desserts won’t weigh you down. The Pannacotta A Caramello (Italian flan with caramel) is creamy and satisfying with about as many calories as Greek yogurt. Follow it up with a Lavazza espresso, and you’ll leave happy.
Chief Executive Stefano Albano jokes, “I want you to leave satisfied, but you don’t have to unbutton your pants.”
Find Casa Barilla near the North Parking Garage in the Sear’s Wing of South Coast Plaza. Go for lunch, or dinner and see how Casa Barilla showcases its 140 years of pasta making experience.
Casa Barilla | 657.205.1025 | Mon-Fri 10am–9pm, Sat 10am–8pm, Sun 11am–6:30pm | www.southcoastplaza.com/directory/casa-barilla/