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San Diego Restaurant Reviews

  Pasta Pronto

By Sue A Prelozni

When you first walk up to Pasta Pronto, it looks like a casual carry-out diner with a few tables out front for patio dining. Keep walking. Tucked in the back is a cute dining area - the walls covered in ceramic tiles and art from Portugal.The decor is very simple.

But don't be fooled by this façade. The food is the caliber of a four star restaurant in downtown LA. In fact, Pasta Pronto's famous dessert, the Mango Tart, is featured on the front page of this month's San Diego Home and Garden magazine.

Pasta Pronto is one of two restaurants with the same name owned by John Freitas. The other is located in Solana Beach. A mainstay of the ever-changing store fronts of the "ALBERTSON's" mall, John has occupied this property for 20 years.

"I started with a French café and only had the front area of this place." After seven years, John bought the property behind his and expanded to what is now the main dining room. He literally doubled the size of his restaurant. It was then he started Pasta Pronto.

Our dining experience started with the typical Italian Caprese salad - sliced tomatoes topped with fresh mozzarella and a slice of avocado, sprinkled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Less typical was the fresh, home-baked bread served with a delicious garlic and basil-based olive oil for dunking. That and a bottle of red wine would have been a meal in itself.

Many of the recipes are creations of John and his wife, Paula, who is also his primary chef. I happened to chose one of John's favorites, grilled scallops over angel hair pasta with sautèed tomatoes and grilled vegetables.

I tasted a unique, zesty flavor I could not identify. John explained, "It's the pesto rub we put on the scallops before they are grilled." Fantastic. My dining partner had an entree featured on the list of the evening specials: the rack of lamb marinated in a port wine sauce, accompanied by spinach and roasted potatoes. Again, a pleasant surprise. The lamb was very tender and enhanced by the smoky effects of the grill.

We were very fortunate to have the famous mango tart for dessert, especially since there were no more left in the kitchen. Somehow John got his chef to create two smaller tarts. He cut a fresh mango in the shape of a rose and served it in a tart shell, filled with a sort of sweet cream fraiche. Incredible. The depth of the dinner menu is quite impressive. In addition to over a dozen pasta dishes, it offers numerous meat and fish entrees: Chicken Florentine, Italian sausage, Linguine with Smoked Trout, and Seafood Risotto, to name a few.

The menu also includes several dishes for the healthy-minded diner, including whole wheat pasta and vegetable risotto. "My lunch menu is even larger," says John. It has to be. Evidently his lunch crowd is even bigger than his evening diners.

"There is more take-out because people are stopping here during work hours." For lunch, Pasta Pronto serves pasta, (of course), salads, sandwiches, baked chicken, even quiche.

In addition, Pasta Pronto caters to a corporate clientele, delivering lunch and dinner to offices in the area. And so began his catering business."We do parties up to 200 people." But, John cautions, he does not do weddings. "It's a different kind of business - a different kind of stress." And stress is not on the menu.

John and Paula are natives of the Madeira Islands of Portugal. With weather and seaports very similar to that of San Diego, he does not feel far from home.

However, the similarities end there according to John. "We have such a great quality of life here. It is unsurpassed by anywhere I have ever been." And true to form, quality is just what he serves at his restaurants.
Hours: Monday - Saturday: 10:00 am - 9 pm; Dinner reservations recommended on weekends. Closed Sundays.
Payment accepted: Credit cards, cash.
Pricing: Very Reasonable. Entrees: $15.95 - 18.95. Pasta: $11.95 - $15.95; Soup and Salads: $3.95 - $12.95
Other: Very courteous staff. Very clean environment.

2673 Via de la Valle
Del Mar

                                                                                                                                       Photos by Emilio Azevedo



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