La Parolaccia Osteria Italiana, 201 N. Indian Hill Blvd. (at 2nd), Claremont
This is the newest restaurant in the Village Expansion, an “osteria Italiana” (with a second location in Long Beach) whose name is said to translate, amusingly, as “bad language.” The restaurant, which opened a couple of months ago, took off immediately — the place always seems to be jumping — and I finally visited with a friend Thursday evening. We made reservations for 7 p.m. and reservations turned out to be a good idea, as even on a Thursday the restaurant was almost full.
They have a selection of pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven, some with unusual ingredients such as eggplant, smoked salmon, yellow squash and goat cheese. Pastas include ravioli, linguine and fettucine, often with pesto, olive oil or other non-marinara treatments.
We had the Napoletana pizza ($12.50) with tomato sauce, mozzarella, capers, black olives and anchovies, and the linguine con i frutti di mare ($18.50), with fresh seafood. The latter was essentially a bowl of seafood (scallops, shrimp, clams, etc.) with a dollop of linguine and was quite good. The pizza, after I got past my unrealistic expectations that it would be as creative as Pizzeria Mozza’s in L.A., proved quite good as well, thin and crisp.
For dessert, the waitress recommended bread pudding ($9), which came with a scoop of gelato. She was on the money.
The meal didn’t proceed without hiccups: Perhaps the waitress hadn’t understood your soft-spoken blogger’s order, because we got a different linguine; it was returned and out came the right one, except, kitchen’s fault, they forgot to add the pasta. But this was quickly remedied and we were charged for the initial, mistaken dish, which was $4.75 cheaper, leaving nothing to object to.
I’d rank La Parolaccia among the valley’s better Italian restaurants, given the creative menu, but would like to reserve special praise for the location and atmosphere. Tables are close together, but not too close, so you get a friendly buzz from a roomful of people unseparated by booths or partitions. Service was friendly and prompt.
And from the exterior, the enormous windows show off people having a good time, in close proximity to a sidewalk, busy street and movie theater. It’s both urban and urbane. As a pedestrian I’ve seen other passersby cast an envious glance inside or closely examine the menu posted outside. La Parolaccia seems like a restaurant in Pasadena, not Claremont. I’m glad it’s here instead.
* Update April 2014: Spoiling the effect, they put curtains in the windows a year or so in, presumably due to complaints from privacy-conscious Claremonters who wouldn’t dream of dining al fresco. I’ve eaten here a few times since my 2008 writeup, including a lunch this month to celebrate birthdays and update this post with photos. I had the ravioli with spinach and ricotta ($13.50, below), a friend had a classico panini ($10, below that) and we shared an enormous tiramisu the size of a block of lasagna ($7.50, bottom). Service was deft and professional. Still a good spot.