As we picked over the menu it became very clear that this place was a pasta house. No pizza and none of the classic red table clothed varieties of what you would expect. Chicken Parmigiana and Eggplant Parmigiana being the exception. All the rest are pasta dishes. OK. No problem I thought. But being Italian you know that it better be done right because chances are your family dog has had better left overs after a Sunday family get together than most places can make.
Very interesting dishes on the menu. I ordered the special of the evening, Which I thought very amusing to call it the special of the evening. And maybe after I tell you the origin you will get the humor as well. So I ordered up a batch of the Pasta Alla Puttanesca ($12.00) and for Sue, She had the most interesting dish on the menu. Pasta Alla Caruso ($15.45). First came out the salad and an order of the house specialty, A bowl of the Tomato Basil Bisque. The salad was journeyman in nature and was nice and fresh. The Bisque on the other hand came in a nice little bowl with dried basil around the rim like an Italian Margarita. I didn't care for it. It had a rather uninteresting tomato sauce taste. although pinkish in color letting you know this was a cream sauce the soup just had no distinct or robust tomato taste. Should have been bursting with concentrated tomato taste. The Garlic bread on the other hand was some of the finest we have ever had. The bread light and flaky with fresh garlic rubbed into every nook and cranny. and then butter slathered on. Awesome stuff.The pasta dishes arrived. I dived into the Pasta Alla Puttanesca first. This is a dish that is normally served without cheese. But first let me tell you the back story on this dish. Pasta Alla Puttanesca literally means "Pasta the way a whore would make it". It seems that after WWII the brothels were state run in Italy and these lady civil servants were only allowed to go to the market once a week so they had to stock up on a lot of non perishables. And apparently back then you got a home cooked meal as well with your paid admission. Only the Italians. The recipe consists of the following items: Anchovies, capers, tomatoes, black olives, garlic, red peper flakes and maybe some basil or parsley chopped and thrown on top and of course your pasta of choice. This is one of those classic little seemingly easy to prepare dishes, that cause a lot of trouble for most cooks as the simple yet very powerful ingredients all try to vie for your taste buds attentions. So you have to learn to balance them out and to coach only the ones you want to be predominate to the forefront. This version was served with a perfectly cooked Linguine, nice and firm to the tooth. The Puttanesca sauce was very tasty but seemed to lack any anchovies or red pepper flakes. otherwise it was an excellent rendition of a dish you rarely see anymore on menus. Worth asking if they make it at your favorite Italian eatery.And speaking of dishes you rarely see on a menu comes next, Pasta Alla Caruso. A favorite of that classic voiced opera singer and named for him as well, Enrico Caruso. I cannot remember the last time I saw this dish on a menu. Done well it can be sublime and like a good tenor, it's culinary voice can either be on or off. It's made with mushrooms and chicken livers all blended together in a red wine reduction sauce and tomatoes and when done has this rich and velvety brown creamy sauce that just wraps itself around the pasta and your tongue like a kid holding onto a carousel pony for the first time. This version at All'Italian was spectacular and one of my favorite pasta dishes anywhere and can possibly be the best pasta dish in San Diego! It was that good. the chicken livers just melt into the sauce and they're taste mellows. The mushrooms are usually crimini and have that nice and slight woodsy flavor. This dish was pure heaven.
The owners of this quaint little eatery open and close when they feel like it. Very European feel and just very nice people here. If you are in the mood for some very tasty non run of the mill pasta. You really should try this place out.
8356 Allison Avenue
La Mesa, CA 91941