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Diego Restaurant Reviews
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
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
"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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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,
Pricing: Very Reasonable. Entrees:
$15.95 - 18.95. Pasta: $11.95 -
$15.95; Soup and Salads: $3.95 -
Other: Very courteous staff. Very
Via de la Valle
by Emilio Azevedo