Café Aldente is one of those neighborhood restaurants that seriously flies under the radar. Located near the back of the strip center anchored by Peets and Chin Chin in Studio City, this small, casual eatery with a sidewalk café, has been quietly serving some of the most unassuming, homemade Italian food (California-style) in the San Fernando Valley since 1988. It’s been my go-to quick spot for casual, reasonable dining for over a decade. (But come June 11, they’ll be kicking it up with 2010 World Cup Soccer viewing on their flat screen.)
Home cooked taste and quiet word of mouth is definitely what’s kept owner/chef Jim Shahin in business for over two decades. All sauces and soups are from scratch and ingredients are fresh, not canned. His marinara is thick and tangy with a pure tomato taste. Fresh soups are made daily, including Mushroom Barley, Lentil (no animal fat or dairy) and Chicken Barley. And the meatballs? Forget about it — Shahin makes the best meatballs I can recall. The secret is in the meat blend and the seasoning.
Cafe Aldente offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is simple and offered all day long with a few egg selections, including a Breakfast Sandwich with eggs, cheese and tomato ($4.95) or the Body Builder with Five egg whites, broiled chicken breast, tomato, mushrooms and spinach ($8.95). Coffee is strong and the capuccinos and lattes are topped with a strong foam.
Menu selections include a wide variety of chopped salads, hot subs, cold sandwiches, paninis, pizzas, pasta, main entrée specialties as well as daily specials. Plus, they’ve got a great weekly pasta special on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-9 pm for $7.95 (pasta and salad) and kids eat FREE!
The chopped salads are simple and fresh with crisp vegetables and are accompanied by bread, garlic toast or homemade garlic rolls with marinara ($8.95-$10.95). Choices include chicken, tuna, salmon, antipasta, greek and bbq chicken.
All sandwiches come with a choice of green salad, potato chips or pasta marinara. Subs are served on French rolls. Highlights include meatballs with mozzarella cheese, chicken parmagiana, pesto chicken and philly cheesesteak ($7-95-$9.95). Cold sandwiches include chicken, tuna and vegetarian. There are ten panini sandwiches which are always perfectly melted. Standouts include the The Aldente:
Genova salami, ham and mozzarella; No Name (fresh mozzarella with grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, fresh basil, and balsamic vinaigrette); Chicken Salad Panini (shredded chicken breast with walnuts tossed in light mayo); and the Chicken Pomodoro (broiled chicken breast, tomato, basil with provolone cheese), but they are seriously all good ($6.45-$8.95).
Pizza comes in two sizes — 10″ and 14″. Choose from the gourmet pizza menu or design your own. The dough is made in-house and rolled on the medium-thin side. You can’t go wrong. Just pick to your taste ($8.95-$17.95).
Pasta selections include your choice of pasta (Spaghetti, Fettuccine, Penne, Capellini) and toppings (including pomodoro, primavera, alfredo, bolognese, pesto, arriabata and more) $7.95-$12.95. Lasagna and Parmagiana dishes are rich and flavorful — it’s the sauce that makes the dish. Parmagiana dishes come with a side of pasta, while lasagna is accompanied by a side salad.
If you are interested in a more substantial entrée, try the chicken skewers with rice pilaf and hummus, (middle eastern rather than Italian), manicotti, salmon or lamb chops. Entrees range from $12.95 to $21.95 (NY Steak) and come with soup or salad. Wine and beer are available, but you are welcome to BYOB with a $4 corkage fee. Evening ambiance inside is light and family friendly, but grab a table outside on a warm summer night with a nice bottle of red — and you’ve got an instant date night — at a reasonable price.
Got room for dessert? Everything is made in house by Shahin’s brother, Rafi. The carrot cake is incredibly moist. Make sure to ask for it warmed up for extra sweet goodness. Also offered are equally good Tiramisu, baklava, brownies and zucchini bread. Check the case daily for more baked surprises.
Café Aldente can be rented out for private parties or let them bring the party to you with full service catering. The prices are surprisingly reasonable. Check them out before you go to another chain Italian restaurant. You know the ones I mean.
TELL THEM YOU READ MDF! SPECIAL FOR MY DAILY FIND READERS, 15% off your bill, excluding the Tues/Thurs special.
SPECIAL 2010 WORLD CUP VIEWING FROM SOUTH AFRICA STARTS JUNE 11 at 11 am!
CAFE ALDENTE 12215 Ventura Blvd. #112 Studio City www.cafealdente.com (818)985-8055. Open 10 am – 9 pm Mon-Sat. Closed Sunday. Breakfast served all day. Wine and beer available. BYOB $4 corkage. Catering and private parties available on premises. Free parking and extra parking in garage below.
Karen Young is the Editor/Publisher of MY DAILY FIND. Got an idea? Question? Just want to say “hey”? Contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org