When it comes to romantic, cozy Italian restaurants, Pasadena dwellers are lucky enough to have two top-notch choices. Trattoria Tre Venezie is intimate and candlelit, with handmade food of the Veneto region. However–romance and regional cuisine ain’t cheap, at least here.

Celestino boasts gnocchi that haunts the dreams of ipse dixit, they’re’s so rich and creamy. But it’s the rapini pasta with sausage that’s out of this world, says petra: a creamy, vibrant green sauce with tiny morsels of pork on strozzapreti. Not a dish you’ll find often, if anywhere in this town.

Chowhound fave La Buca is small (VERY small) and romantic–if you don’t need a lot of elbow or leg room.

La Luna is consistently tasty as well as romantic and very comfortable, says JJ, who’s never had a bad meal there.

Il Buco has a real Italian feel about it, and offers a good selection of pastas, gnocchi, and mains.

Less romantic, but a great neighborhood place, is Il Forno. There are some duds on the menu, but when you get the good stuff it’s like hitting a home run. Start with the tomato-garlic bruschetta–the bread is nothing special, but the crazy garlicky-vinegary flavor really makes it.

Radicchio-romaine salad with pecans, balsamic vinegar and a stellar dry-aged ricotta is lovely, and the house Caesar (with anchovies) is super. Minestrone soup is just okay.

If you spot veal ravioli with creamy tomato sauce on the specials menu, pounce. It’s too good to get away. Spinach-ricotta ravioli are fluffy and delectable; so are gnocchi with pesto and vegetables. But rigatoni with tomato-meat sauce is good-not-great, and capellini with scampi is an outright dud–puny shrimp and not much flavor.

Note to wine lovers and bargain hunters: if you buy a bottle of wine at Wine Expo, there’s no corkage at Il Forno.

Trattoria Tre Venezie [Pasadena-ish]
119 W. Green St., DeLacey Ave., Pasadena

Celestino [Pasadena-ish]
141 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

La Buca [Hollywood]
5210 1/2 Melrose Ave., West of Wilton, Los Angeles

La Luna Ristorante [Larchmont Village]
113 N. Larchmont Blvd., 1st St., Los Angeles

Il Buco Pizzeria Restaurant [Beverly Hills]
107 N. Robertson Blvd., Wilshire, Beverly Hills

Il Forno Caffe & Pizzeria [Beaches]
2901 Ocean Park Blvd. #109, 29th St., Santa Monica

Board Links: La Buca.
Celestino–PK’s Review

See more articles