Old School Italian In Burbank

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We can’t seem to get enough of the old classic restaurants. They remind us of a simpler time, firmly rooted in great food, exceptional value, local community and service with a smile. Pinocchio Restaurant in Burbank has been a neighborhood institution since the 60’s. The restaurant is only half the story. The expansive corner establishment also houses the Monte Carlo Deli, which has been providing in house, locally sourced and imported Italian delicacies to an appreciative customer base for over 40 years.

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The restaurant is set up cafeteria style and we hopped in line to view both the menu on the wall, as well as the steam trays overflowing with freshly prepared, enticing dishes.

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Standing in line we also found sides and salads to accompany entrees, pizza and sandwiches.

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We are huge fans of eggplant parmesan and couldn’t resist an order. The hefty slice comes submerged in their garlic heavy marinara which we chose over the meat sauce. The rich and satisfying layers are enhanced by the soul of tomato, herbs and spices blooming in a sauce cooked down to its thick, chunky essence, that can only be achieved by hours bubbling away on the stovetop.

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Prices on entrees, pizza and salad all fall into the exceptionally reasonable category and dishes share easily.

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The homemade Italian sausage is a fennel punctuated, Italian herb and spice heavy blend that is bliss in a casing. We chose ours with grilled onions and peppers, over pasta topped with their house meat sauce.

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Don’t forget to check the specials board at the beginning of the chow line to see if any additional options call.

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Three vintage dining rooms are warm and comfortable, providing plenty of seating in various configurations, accommodating everything from a dinner for two to a family affair.

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Either before or after your meal a visit to the attached Monte Carlo deli is a must.

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Well organized rows of almost everything one could need or want for an Italian feast are displayed.

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Refrigerated cases overflow with an abundance of pepperoni and salami.

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Dried pasta in shapes that grab on to rich sauces and a profusion of olive oil fill the back of the shop.

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We tried some of the imported chocolate and appreciate the flavors and texture of Kinder brand.

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Behind the deli counter, loaves of freshly baked breads are the precise tools for sopping up the sauces or making garlic bread.

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While the counter itself displays a wide variety of deli meats and sausages for those wanting to fill their homes with the smells and flavors of Italy.

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Surprises line every shelf and counter, so give yourself enough time to search for delicious indulgences.

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And of course no Italian meal is complete without a nice bottle of wine and Monte Carlo has a well laid out selection to chose from.

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For a homestyle taste of Southern Italy, inside a space that feels welcoming and hospitable, Pinocchio and Monte Carlo warm the heart and the soul in a way only Italian cuisine can.

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Monte Carlo Deli & Pinocchio’s Restaurant, 3103 West Magnolia Boulevard, Burbank, CA 91505
Phone – 818-845-3516          web site – montecarlodeli.com

Ecstasy Inducing Thai Papaya Salad

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Ruen Pair, is one of the old timers in Thai Town for good reason, they have remained dedicated to the flavors of Thailand. Everytime we return we are pleasantly surprised by the freshness, quality and intense Thai spices, curries, herbs and seasoning that transform their dishes into heaven on a plate.

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Open from 11 AM to 3 AM everyday of the week, they give us lots of opportunities to immerse ourselves into the joys only an accomplished Thai chef can deliver.

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An extensive menu covers a wide variety of diverse classics starting with their beverage page that offers exotic hot and cold delights.

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We can’t resist the Thai Ice Coffee which is not as sweet as Thai ice tea and delivers a seriously creamy coffee punch.

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Jet Tila, the Thai and Chinese food aficionado, declares Ruen Pair as the place to get the best Papaya salad in Los Angeles and we are going to second that declaration.

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No matter how we order the shredded green fruit masterpiece it always tickles our tastes buds in ways that thrill and excite us. A slightly sweet, savory, spicy, combination of green papaya and secret ingredients makes this multi-nuanced salad hit the tongue and back of the throat with more refreshing surprises than we ever expect.

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It can be ordered with or without dried shrimp, salty black crab or raw crab and is always a winner. We requested it this time sans shellfish and it was perfect with lots of crunchy, roasted peanuts playing against the snap of crisp papaya slivers in a dressing that is truly miraculous.

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By no means is Ruen Pair a one trick pony, there is considerably more that shines here. The pad kee mao, also known as drunken noodles, are broad noodles stir fried with chili, basil, egg and we chose chicken for our protein component. Pure comfort food is how we would describe this homey plate.

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The noodles and curry dishes can be enhanced with their condiment tray which offers chili powder, chili sauce, sugar and chopped green chilies in vinegar.  The later which takes the noodle dishes to new heights of oral pleasure.

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Chinese broccoli with crispy pork comes with a dipping sauce but doesnt need anything in our humble option. The chunks of fat laden pork are an enlightened contrast to the still crisp greens.

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We strongly recommend a visit to Ruen Pair to anyone interested in tasting the Thai flavors that helped establish Thai Town in Los Angeles and with pretty much everything under $10 a dish, its an easy exploration of the best of the cuisine.

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Ruen Pair, 5257 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Phone – 323-466-0153          web site – ruenpairthaila.com

or

Ruen Pair Thai Restaurant, 18219 East Gale Avenue, City of Industry, CA 91748
Phone – 626-964-2370

Philippe’s Is As Classic LA As It Gets

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One of our favorite Los Angeles classics is Philippe The Original, which has been in business since 1908.

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The charming deli/counter ambiance is enhanced with sawdust on the floor and shared high tables surrounded by stools. They also have booths in the back if that type of seating is preferred.

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For over a hundred years Philippe’s has been a cash only establishment and recently altered their policies to accept credit cards.

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The menu above the counter is small yet full of the favorites that have kept them going strong for 108 years.

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Philippe’s “French Dipped Sandwich” is the specialty of the house and consist of either roast beef, roast pork, leg of lamb, turkey or ham served on a light, freshly baked French roll which has been dipped in the natural gravy of the roasts. Swiss, American, Monterey Jack or Blue cheese may be added.

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To accompany your sandwich Philippe’s offers options such as tart, tangy cole slaw, homemade potato and macaroni salads, hard boiled eggs pickled in beet juice and spices, large Kosher style, sour dill or sweet pickles, black olives and hot yellow chili peppers.

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Daily soups are warm and comforting, like the navy bean on special the night of our visit.

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A crumbling of saltine crackers brings the down home feel.

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We are addicted to the lamb and have it with either blue or swiss cheese.

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We prefer it double dipped with both the lower and upper halves of the roll dunked in roasting juices.

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The pièce de résistance is the addition of their hot mustard which clears the sinuses and adds a mustard, vinegar spice tang that is the perfect accompaniment to the roasted meats.

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We simply can’t get enough of the mustard and purchase jars of the stuff to take home.

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The sour dill pickles feel right at home alongside the sandwiches.

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Cakes are moist and flavorful and the coconut cake is high on our list of great ways to complete a Philippe’s meal.

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For a taste of classic Los Angeles from one of the first purveyors of the French dip, Philippe’s is the spot to go retro.

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Philippe the Original, 1001 North Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone – 213-628-3781          web site – philippes.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Some Of LA’s Best Mexican Baked Goods

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We continue our exploration of East LA with El Gallo Bakery. In business since 1949, they have perfected their craft and the Latin community has come to love and embrace this neighborhood gem. Get ready to explore the amazing world of pan dulce (sweet breads). The sweet Mexican pastries/breads come in a variety of forms and shapes including seashells, animals, flat cookies, round puffs, stuffed crescents, and all manor of classically beautiful baked goods.

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Originating in Spain, pan dulce made its way to Mexico where they are eaten for breakfast, often dipped in hot chocolate or served with coffee. They are also a popular midday snack.

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El Gallo has a reputation as one of the best spots in Los Angeles to get these delectable bakery items. The lines attest to the quality and assure fast turn over, making these some of the freshest treats around.

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The bakery also sells packages to make hot chocolate and inside huge vats are freshly made tamales of pork or cheese.

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Not to mention a small smattering of Mexican candies, sweets and coconut macaroons.

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The proceedure is simple. Take a plastic bag, grab some tamales from the enourmous silver pots near the front door and get in line. When it’s our turn we ask questions and point to the most attractive sweets, which are then piled onto trays and scooted along the counter top to the register.

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A lovely bakery attendant packs the goodies and then we were presented with a small bill, under $10 for a tray full of deliciousness.

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We were barely out the door when we had to sample the pineapple stuffed crescent which is a light, super supple, sweet pastry topped with toasted almonds. Everything melts together on the tongue and we fell hard for these beauties that we could eat all day long.

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Our empanada was filled with extremely sweet squash that tasted like fresh baked yams. We heated this one up at home to bring out the flavors even more.

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El Gallo does a wonderful pan de elote, also known as Mexican corn bread. This bread differs from American corn bread in that it has an almost pudding-like consistency.

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The velvety interior is sweet and creamy against the more sturdy, scorched edged crust with whole pieces of corn dotting the cake. This is the most delectable “bread pudding” we’ve had the privilege of eating.

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The corn masa encased tamales are stuffed with either cheese and mild green pepper that come in a yellow wrapper or

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stewed pork that can be found inside the white wrappers.

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Whatever you choose, El Gallo Bakery will set you up with some of the best Mexican bakery goods that we have in our fair city and that makes them one of our top stops for party treats and other celebratory indulgences.

El Gallo Bakery, 4546 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90022
Phone – 323-263-5528          web site – elgallobakery.com

One Of The Oldest Thai Establishments In LA Brings The Classics Home

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Today we had the pleasure of dining at Chao Krung, one of the oldest Thai restaurants in Los Angeles. The second oldest, according to the owners.

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A tranquil space decorated with charming pagodas, wall murals, Buddhist art and lots of dark wood is warm and welcoming.

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The menu features traditional Thai cuisine and we dug into some of our favorites, beginning with chicken larb.

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The ground poultry salad is spiked with onion, chili, ground toasted rice and lime juice. Each chef has their own secret recipe for this Lao/Thai dish of pure refreshment.

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This version is served with lettuce leaves and mint, encouraging guests to wrap the salad in a romaine leaf, add some mint, fold into a taco shape and enjoy. The briny, tangy, coarse, citrus and herb scented mix is one of the most exciting Thai dishes we know.

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We were also impressed with the shiitake mushroom salad, packed with juicy, meaty grilled mushroom slices, a profusion of dark greens, tomato, bell pepper, cilantro and a light, complementary Thai dressing.

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No Thai meal feels complete without one of their signature soups and we feasted on a chili spiced, coconut milk based, chicken and herb soup accented with kaffir leaves, galangal and lemongrass.

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One of the most well known dishes is pad thai, where tangles of flat rice noodles are tossed with lime juice, green onion, fresh bean sprouts, shredded carrot, scrambled egg, crushed peanuts and plump shrimp in a mildly sweet sauce.

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The sweetness of the pad thai and other dishes can be tempered by the addition of vinegar with chopped chilies, one of the Thai condiments available to customers. The green chilies are hot and if spicy isn’t desired, the vinegar alone cuts the sweet and adds a zesty flavor creating a sweet and tangy melange that pushes Thai dishes to shine even brighter.

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Another bowl that is kicked into higher levels of excitement by the addition of spicy vinegar, is the duck curry. Tender, in-house roasted duck is combined with pineapple, tomato, basil, bell pepper and onions in a creamy, red curry and coconut sauce. This rich dish is perfect over rice, which sops up every drop.

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Meat lovers will appreciate the crying tiger appetizer, consisting of rare slices of beef that are dipped into the chili flecked sauce that accompanies, sometimes bringing guests to tears of spicy joy.

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We cooled our palates with their coconut ice cream, expertly accented with roasted cashew nuts and made on the premises.

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For a taste of Thailand from one of the families that introduced LA to the cuisine, Chao Krung remains a serene spot to savor life with good friends over memorable Thai classics.

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Chao Krung Restaurant, 111 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone – 323-939-8361           web site – chaokrungla.com