****UPDATE:  This restaurant is now closed.  Sadness…****

Last weekend, Dan and I ventured from our apartment near the playa to head to Pasadena for a free music festival. A record-breaking heatwave apparently decided to show up as well. When we got there, it was so obnoxiously hot, we quickly looked for a place to hide while we waited for our friends to show up. A small restaurant was advertising a $2.50 Corona special and appeared to have AC so we ducked in.

Siena is a small, inviting ristorante in Old Pasadena. The minute you walk in, you’re greeted warmly. Dan and I were quickly seated. I liked the interior a lot – orange-rust walls, black wood accents, table tops decorated with a collage of Italian sceneries. It was comfy yet sharp.

After browsing their lunch menu, we decided we weren’t hungry enough to order full entreés (I had cooked a huge breakfast) so we settled on sharing the Frito Misto while Dan enjoyed his Corona and I had a glass of cold, crisp Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($7).

I have to comment on this wine. I’m not a expert on wine by any means; I prefer the sweeter flavors of port and muscats and stick with simpler reds like Zinfadels. But since it was so hot, a nice chilled glass of white wine seemed like a good idea. This Sauvignon Blanc advertised a nice flavor of passionfruit and fig and it delivered. It was intensely fruity and didn’t have that strong aftertaste that a lot of wine have. The first sip won me over. Bev Mo carries it in their stores as does Trader Joe’s as I found out today. Yes, I purchased a bottle for home consumption. 🙂

Back to Siena…. We were quickly served some lovely warm rustic bread – soft on the inside with a nice crunchy crust. And instead of butter, we were served a dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a sign of a proper Italian ristorante. Siena spruces the oil and vinegar mixture with a sprig of rosemary, parmesan cheese, garlic and red pepper flakes. Delicious!

We then had our Frito Misto delivered. A mix of breaded shrimp, calamari, zucchini and artichoke hearts, this dish was a great appetizer. The coating was very light and it was not oily. A lot of the times, I find deep-fried appetizers like this to be too heavy on the breading and greasy. It was nice to come across one that had it right. And I’ve never had deep-fried artichoke hearts before. I have to say it was good and the taste of the heart was not overpowered by the batter and deep-frying, another common issue.

The rest of the menu looked really good. If it were not so far from where we live, I’m sure Dan and I would go back for a proper meal there. The duck sausage pizza with fennel and mozzerella ($11) looked interesting and I want to try the wild mushroom bruschetta. Perhaps if we find ourselves in Pasadena again….

I do have to comment on the service. They were really awesome there. After we met up with our friends and spending about a 1/2 hr outside, we quickly retreated back where we spent the next couple of hours occupying a table and ordering only beers (well, I had water due to suffering a bit of heat sickness). They did not try to chase us out nor were they less attentive.

We did have pictures but Dan seems to have hidden his camera from me…so I’ll have to come back and edit with pix!

Siena gets 4 NOMs from the Catty Critic.

43 E Union Street
Pasadena, CA 91103-3923
Phone (626) 584-6050
Fax (626)796-6050


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