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Fettuccine Bar Offers Choice of 18 Pastas

Times Staff Writer

California Fettuccine Bar in Agoura Hills looked inviting as we pulled into the parking lot. It was after dark and a soft glow from the pink walls and subtle lighting inside was coming through the windows.

Three old gas pumps still stand guard over the entrance, but even before California Fettuccine Bar opened a little more than two years ago, the building had been occupied by another restaurant for some time. Sometime way back, around the early ’40’s, however, it was actually a gas station.

The tiled entry leads to a large room with vaulted ceiling and wooden floor. It has about 20 tables with pink-and-red linens and chrome and cane chairs. Six more tables are on an adjacent enclosed front porch. A few plants and contemporary art on the walls are about the only other additions to the simple decor.

The rolls that were served soon after we were seated were one of the few disappointments during our visits. We’re guessing from the chewy texture that they’re warmed in an oven, but then microwaved at the last moment.

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This shortcoming was quickly forgotten once the involtini di melanzane farcite e peperoni arrostiti antipasti arrived at our table. The very thinly sliced eggplant is broiled, then wrapped around goat cheese, marinated and served with roasted red peppers on a bed of lightly dressed greens. Three of each item makes it an ideal dish to share.

The main portion of the menu is devoted to 18 types of pasta, all, except the tortellini and ravioli, prepared on the premises. These may be coupled with any of the restaurant’s 40 or so tomato, cream or specialty sauces. While pondering our choices, we discovered an important point about this restaurant: Just because something isn’t on the printed menu, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unavailable.

A member of our party was sure she had ordered clam sauce on a previous occasion, but couldn’t find it listed. Questioning the waitress, we found clams were not only available, but served in three different styles. (We understand they will be included on the next menu to be printed.) So it pays to ask questions, because that dozen clams, prepared with white wine, tomatoes and basil and served on linguini, would have been a shame to miss.

It also pays to do a little eavesdropping. After ordering a glass of the house Villa Banfi white wine, we overheard our waitress mention to the next table that a Venegazzu Pinot Grigio was offered by the glass. It turned out to be drier and more to our liking.

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None of this is intended to say that service is lacking. On the contrary, it’s friendly and attentive. With a list of evening specials to present verbally (also listed on a large blackboard, but not visible from all tables), it’s easy to understand a wine being overlooked or someone not mentioning items such as the clams.

Besides, staff recommendations proved to be on target. We took the advice of having the salsa ai carciofi served with fettuccine al basilico , and it was a winner. The basil-flavored pasta was an excellent foil for the surprisingly light sauce of cream, baby artichokes, garlic and parsley sauce.

A nightly special 14-ounce veal chop was not as lean as we expected, but had an intriguing sauce of radicchio, pancetta, tomatoes and wood-ear mushrooms. Because of the size, two of us had mentioned we would share the entree and, without our asking, it was sliced horizontally and arranged on two plates in the kitchen.

Again, when it came to ordering dessert, it paid to ask questions. Although a chocolate-plum and hazelnut torte were very acceptable, we later learned they were not made in the restaurant. The Kaluha pecan pie our waitress presented after we asked her for the best in-house dessert, was by far the best of the trio. A very foamy cappuccino complemented it well.

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California Fettuccine Bar, 29008 Agoura Road, Agoura Hills, (818) 991-3000. A sister restaurant to La Bruschetta and Westwood Fettuccine Bar. Open for lunch, Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner, Tuesday through Thursday, from 5:30 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from 5:30 to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Closed Monday. All major credit cards accepted. Lot parking. Pastas, $9.50 to $17; Entrees, $9 to $20.


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