Cherie Mercer Twohy
Divine Kitchen? A lofty claim, but perhaps there is a cherub flitting
about the kitchen of Divina Cucina, a popular Montrose dining spot.
On a steamy weeknight, the dining room was crowded with convivial
groups beating the barometer with salads, pastas and more. An
enclosed patio offers additional seating. Softly sponge-painted walls
blend from ocher to sunrise yellow, with a flight of angels cavorting
on one end of the ceiling. Racks of wine bottles frame the open
kitchen, where servers bustle with trays of tempting-looking
Clever glass carafes on the table offer diners an opportunity to
splash a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on a plate, and dab it
up with soft-yet-crusty rolls with a just-baked aroma. Spicy bread
sticks are a tasty nibble, while menu choices are considered.
Complimentary bruschetti arrive quickly, with vibrant tomatoes
that seem to pulse with flavor.
Divina does soups (dare I say it?) divinely. One soup of the day
was a deeply flavorful cream of artichoke, which managed to balance
creaminess and lightness beautifully.
The nutty artichoke flavor was matched with a lemony under note
that made it a delightful first course. Another evening, carrot soup
was bright in both color and taste, and quite refreshing, even in the
heat ($3.95 cup, $4.95 bowl).
One thing to consider when ordering is serving size. In a word,
One order of Pollo Preziosa was enough for my dinner, and then for
lunch to share the next day. The dish is a double chicken breast,
pounded fairly thin, and sauteed with a tasty melange of garlic,
rosemary, walnuts and basil in a light cognac-cream sauce ($15.95). A
choice of steamed vegetables or pasta makes for a daunting plate of
food, but every morsel was delicious, even the leftovers.
A portion of Lasagna alla Napoletana was as large as a double
order at another local take-out place. The thin spinach pasta sheets
sheltered a light, meatless filling, which was more fluffy ricotta
than heavy mozzarella, making this a surprisingly good summer choice
Special orders are handled graciously. The Princess Daughter (who
once pronounced “Tomatoes are not in my life!”) asked our server if
she could have the Capellina alla Checca with no tomatoes.
(Sigh ... and the tomatoes here are gorgeous.)
As tomatoes are the heart of this dish, the waitress paused for a
moment, then recovered nicely, and wrote the order as requested. (The
Princess Daughter was delighted with her dish -- garlic and olive oil
dressed pasta with basil ($10.25.) Who has room for dessert? Again,
in service to readers, we shared a dark chocolate heart, encasing
deep raspberry sorbetto. Plated attractively, this frozen treat was a
perfect ending to una notte divina at Divina Cucina.
Kudos: Delicious food in large portions. Lively, friendly
Quibbles: On a busy evening, tables can be close together. In that
case, make friends with your dining neighbors, and you may discover a
new dish for next time.
* CHERIE MERCER TWOHY teaches cooking in
La Canada Flintridge.
She can be reached at www.chezcherie.com.