Pechanga paid for our meal. We paid for wine and gratuity.
Last summer we visited with the new chef, Francesco di Caudo, from Paisano’s Italian Restaurant at Pechanga Resort & Casino. Last week we returned to see how Chef Francesco is achieving his objectives. His initial goal was to provide the best culinary experience outside of Italy and to plan seasonal menus featuring fresh local ingredients. Plus have every guest leaving with a big smile. We were warmly greeted by manager, Alan Berry and server, Melinda. The seasonal “Summer” menu featured a selection of warm weather enticements with popular year-round favorites. We decided to put ourselves in Chef Francesco’s capable hands and to share his choices. It was indeed a stellar culinary experience.
We began with a summer appetizer of Tonno E Panzanella (seared peppery ahi tuna, tomato, cucumber, red onion and croutons with 3 kinds of pepper in delicate tomato water.) The uber-fresh ingredients with just a little heat of pepper and refreshing chill of tomato water was an ideal introduction to summer cuisine. This was quickly followed by a bright Risotto Al Pomodora (tomato risotto, homemade ricotta and black olive powder.) The creamy ricotta added just enough richness but did not overpower the simplicity of this summer favorite. I was very thankful to be sharing the next pasta course – Trofie Italia (linguria small twisted pasta, basil pesto, sweet cherry tomato and burrata cheese,) The subtle, fresh flavors sang in my mouth . Having been squirted by the juice of far too many cherry tomatoes, I am happy to report that these firm lovelies had all been peeled.
Continuing the focus on seasonal, Chef next prepared an entrée of Branzino (grilled Mediterranean Sea Bass, cannelini beans, baby eggplant in a sauce of *Nduja sausage.) The sea bass was moist and deliciously enhanced by the other ingredients. Following in quick succession were two more entrée samples, Brasato (prime beef shortribs, a medley of micro-vegetables and white *salsify) was packed with flavor and offered a change of taste. By now my waistband was tightening and I started to think to-go boxes. But Chef Francesco hadn’t quite finished with our Midsummer Night’s Dream of a dinner, He insisted that we try another fish, Lavarello (seared whitefish, lemon caper sauce, roasted baby onion, black garlic and *sea beans.) OMG! I think this was my favorite. It tasted like a mouthful of my favorite summer flavors. I was more than satisfied and definitely smiling.
*A great thing about trying new ingredients in this “smart phone” age is the ability to google anything and discover what it is as I am sampling it. At Paisano’s I looked up three items: Nduja – an aged, spicy and spreadable Italian pork sausage which added a spark of flavor to our Branzino. Salsify – a root vegetable belonging to the dandelion family, also known as the oyster plant, complemented the micro-vegetables and shortribs. And Sea Beans – a vegetable with many names including salicornia. It grows in protected salt marshes around the world and added a salty texture to the wonderful Lavarello.
If the summer menu piqued your interest, be sure to visit Paisano’s soon. The fall menu debuts in September. The prices for these unique, carefully prepared creations are quite reasonable. Soup/Salad/Antipasti – $8-18, Entrées – $18-36. If you are headed to a show or are eager to get back to gaming, choose from a selection of pizzas – $12-14. And if you have a sweet tooth or lack the willpower, scrumptious desserts created by Executive Pastry Chef, Frania Mendivil are just $7, If you happen by Paisano’s on a Friday night, they offer a Dinner and Dancing Special. Enjoy a 3-course meal (appetizer, main course and dessert) for $40 per person. This includes admission to Eagle’s Nest rooftop nightclub from 9pm – 12am. Sundays and Mondays enjoy a Family Style Special for only $15.95 per person. Whatever your choice, I’m pretty sure you will leave with a smile. Buon appetito!