Pies On The Savory Side (And Other Good Italian Stuff)
Domenico's, Monrovia: Pizza

May 17, 2002 at 18:14:17

When the Mrs. does not relish the long drive from her office in
Glendale to the old homestead in Chino, she sometimes calls
me and "suggests", only in the way that a lovely Significant Other
can, that we meet at Domenico's in Monrovia. Now this call may
be received by me when I am in relative proximity to Monrovia at
my office in Monterey Park, or it may be received when I am
working from the office at home in Chino. In either case, I am
always expected to acquiese. I am always glad to oblige,
because 1) I really enjoy my visits to Domenico's, and 2) it is
better than the alternative, which occurs all too frequently, which is
instead of coming straight home, the Mrs. instead makes
numerous stops along the way, at various shopping venues, and
it takes her about 4 hours to get home, instead of the expected 1
to 2 hours.

So while at my office in Monterey Park on Wednesday I did get a
call from the Mrs. suggesting that wouldn't we really like to meet
at Domenico's.  Wanting to keep the Mrs. happy, and instantly
discarding any thoughts of The Liquid Diet with visions of pizza, of
course I agreed.  It must have been a fortuitous decision,
because when I pulled up in Herman, there was a vacant parking
space in Domenico's lot (which can be completely impossible to
get in to at times), right next to the lovely and exciting Melanie.
(Herman for those not yet initiated, is my Detroit iron, Melanie is
the Mrs'. Detroit iron, Melanie has recently replaced Heather, as
Heather was getting on in age, at 3 years, Melanie is just an infant
in comparison, and also a souped up version of Heather.)

I joined the Mrs. in a booth, and Marie, the proprietress of
Domenico's greeted me with "I am sure you don't need these,
Wayne" as she handed us a couple of menus. Marie was of
course correct, as we are long time happy patrons of this
establishment, and before that of its sister establishment in
northeast Pasadena. So feeling starved, as by this time it was
about 7:45 and all I had to eat all day was a chicken Ceasar from
the company cafeteria, I suggested to the Mrs. "Would you like
some fried ravioli appetizer", knowing full well that she would say
yes, because she loves this stuff (and I would then be able to
extrapolate in my devious way).  So I gave Marie our order, not a
ravioli appetizer, but rather a combo appetizer of fried ravioli, fried
zucchini and "poppers". I also ordered a dinner salad (hold the
onions) with the house Italian (oil and vinegar based) dressing
for the Mrs., a bowl of minestrone for me, and a "large very, very,
very thin crust, double pepperoni and sausage pizza".

The soup, salad and appetizers came at almost the same time.
Domenico's dinner salad is not remarkable to me, it is basically
lettuce with a bit of tomato, some chopped black olive and about
half a cup of shredded mozzarella on top. This does not appeal to
me, but the Mrs. and daughter like it, so that is all that matters.
When I have a salad at Domenico's I prefer their Ceasar, a bowl
of torn Romaine, some chopped tomato (I know that is not
according to the "classic" recipe) and at my option anchovies (no
croutons). Of course, as in many such establishments, the
salads are usually prepared by the servers, so depending on who
our current server may be, the Ceasar will vary a bit, but when they
do it well, it is very enjoyable, appealing to the eye in the way it is
composed within the over-sized bowl, and tasty with the melding
of the Romaine, anchovies and salad dressing.

I do not particularly care for a lot of fried appetizers. The fried
ravioli at Domenico's is pretty good though. It consists of cheese
raviolis, dipped in bread crumb and deep fried. I can taste a hint
of chile in these and believe they may add a little chile powder to
the bread crumbs. The fried ravioli, as are the other fried
appetizers, are accompanied by a nice little bowl of Domenico's
marinara, and I do enjoy the way the fried appetizers and
marinara compliment each other.  A combo appetizer is one in
which you may choose any three items (out of ravioli, zucchini,
poppers, calamari and I think something else, which escapes me
as I write this). I have had the ravioli so many times that at this
point I can take it or leave it. So my strategy paid off, one third of
the combo was the ravioli, which I graciously left completely to the
Mrs. and the other two thirds were the poppers and zucchini. I
also graciously offered the zucchini to the Mrs. who only took one
piece, leaving the rest to me, and of course I knew she would not
want any of the poppers. The zucchini was very nice, it was sliced
on the long axis in to nice "sticks" and the batter was almost
tempura like. The zucchini slices came dusted with a bit of
parmesano cheese. I really liked the zucchini, it was very fresh
and tasted like something clean and wonderful from the Earth,
and the batter was nice and subtle, not overpowering as these
things can be when they come from a freezer in a commercial
commissary. The poppers are jalepeno peppers that are stuffed
with cheese, then battered and fried.  I really like these too. I enjoy
spicy food, and the combination of the faintly (to my palate) hot
peppers and the warm melted cheese goes down my gullet very
smoothly.  I was drinking iced tea this evening, but these
appetizers would go extremely well with a pitcher or two of beer.

When Marie initially went in to the kitchen I heard her call out our
order, and when it came to the pie, her words to the line cook
were "a large thin, thin pizza, double pepperoni and sausage". I
have come to believe that the turn of phrase "thin, thin" is key to
everything. Normally a Domenico's pizza is prepared with a thin
crust, however, their standard thin crust is much to much doughy
crust for the Mrs. and I.  I think the un-houndly masses probably
go for it because they don't know any better, and it is a cheap way
to fill up.  When Domenico's produces a "thin, thin" pizza it is
Heaven on Earth. Our thin, thin crust pizza arrived hot from the
oven, and the crust was truly thin, the crust was maybe 2/8 of an
inch thick on the outer edge, or "lip", much, much thinner towards
the center. The outer edge had the consistency of a very nice,
warm, golden brown, cracker. So the taste sensations that came
through, were of a nice dry crackly outer crust, a softer, but not
doughy or gummy inner crust, and a perfect melding of tomato
sauce, melted cheese, pepperoni and Italian sausage.

Now when the Mrs. and I order a large pie at Domenico's, if we do
not order it "thin, thin", we can never finish it, and end up bringing
some home, but when it is ordered and prepared, the proper,
"thin, thin" way, we totally demolish that pie. Absolutely nothing
was left, and as Marie came by the table there was only a small
morsel of sausage on the pie pan, and Marie remarked "gee, you
aren't even leaving a piece of sausage for me to take home to my
dog", and she was right, because I grabbed up the sausage
morsel and popped it in to my mouth, as there was just enough
room for it in my stomach.

So Wednesday was an outstanding night for pizza in Monrovia. All
in all, I would rate Domenico's "thin, thin" pizza the best I can find
in the greater L.A. area except for D'Amore's. So if you want to
taste a great pizza, join us for the Roving Chow Fest on June 1,
when we make a stop at D'Amore's, or make the trip out to
Monrovia anytime (except Mondays) and try Domenico's,

Domenico's Monrovia
236 West Huntington Drive
Monrovia, CA 91016
(626) 357-7975
San Biagio's Pizza: There Is Hope For The
Inland Empire

September 23, 2002 at 21:20:21

The first order of business is to acknowledge the 'houndly field
work of Willi Rossli, who posted about this establishment last
week. Willi, you have a good nose for delicious chow.

Both the Mrs. and I happened to be working from home today, so
around about three this afternoon I invited her to take a late lunch
with me. I think the Mrs. is starting to take on 'houndly traits, not
only does she now periodically ask me if I have gone
"chowhounding" lately, but she passed a critical test today. I
asked her if she would like to 1) try a new pizza place, 2) go to
Chili's, 3) go to Olive Garden; 4) go to Sizzler. And lo and behold,
she said "let's try the pizza place". This is a major breakthrough
for her, as her usual response to a suggestion to try a new place
would be "no, you try it first".

So off the Mrs. and I went in Herman, out in the triple digit heat (it
was so hot that it burned off all of the cow shit smell in Chino
today) on our junket up to Upland.

San Biagio's is in a little storefront in a shopping center at the
corner of 7th Street and Mountain Avenue in Upland, a half a
block north of the 10 freeway.  It is about double the size of
D'Amore's in Sherman Oaks. Where D'Amore's has room for
about four tables, San Biagio's has a whole dining room on the
side. The ambiance at San Biagio's is very similar to D'Amore's,
a no frills pizza joint, where you order and pay at the counter, find
a table, and they will bring your order to you.

We ordered an 18 inch pie with pepperoni, an antipasto salad
and a pitcher of Bud.

The salad was composed of torn iceberg lettuce (with plenty of
green pieces, as opposed to a lot of places that only seem to
have "white" iceberg lettuce), some bits of tomato, slices of black
olive, some very thinly sliced ham, coppaciola and pepperoni,
and shredded mozzarella. The Mrs. asked the gentleman to hold
the onions. A squirt bottle of oil and vinegar based Italian
dressing and a squirt bottle of creamy Italian dressing were
brought with the salad. The salad was nice and fresh and with
the oil and vinegar based dressing and some added pepper,
was very tasty. The creamy Italian dressing seemed to be very
bland.

In addition to salt and pepper, other condiments on the table
were shredded parmesiano, pepper flakes and dried chopped
oregano leaves.

The pie arrived fresh and hot out of the oven. An 18 inch pie, in
the classic New York style of thin crust and very large slices (8
wedges from the 18 inch pie). The crust as I said, was thin, and a
bit "spongy", but not in a bad way, but in a good way. When I bit in
to it the crust had some "tooth", and then some "chew" to it. The
crust worked very well as a foil for the toppings.  As in a classic
New York style pizza the toppings were not overdone. A very thin
layer of a very nice tasting tomato sauce, a thin layer of perfectly
melted and melded cheese, and some thin slices of pepperoni.

I am one who believes that a pizza should not be overpowered by
its crust, and this was not. Just a perfect ratio of crust to toppings.

When I asked the Mrs. how she liked her pizza, she was fairly
non-committal, she said "OK". But that "OK", and the fact that she
subsequently picked up a few more of those very large slices,
and after the first slice gave up on her knife and fork, and just
used her hands, was indicative that this pizza, did indeed satisfy
her.

The beer was nice and cold, and we both thoroughly enjoyed this
bit of respite from the workday. I will return here for pizza in the
future.

This was by the far the best pizza I have encountered in these
quarters, and I would recommend it to other 'hounds in the area
or passing through.

In order to give other 'hounds some perspective, if I were
comparing San Biagio's to D'Amore's, I would have to rate
D'Amore's as the better pizza, but San Biagio's comes close, and
comes a million miles for a joint that is situated in The Dining
Wilderness That Is The Inland Empire.  I would rate D'Amore's a
10 on a scale of 1 to 10, and I would rate San Biagio's an 8.5.  In
my opinion the D'Amore's crust is better, more like a cracker, and
with some nice bubbles from the oven. But since D'Amore's is
about a 60 mile drive from the old homestead, I am perfectly
happy with San Biagio's.

And unlike your local pizza chains, San Biagio's business card
lists "Biagio" as the General Manager, "Claudio" as the Assistant
Manager and "Enrico" as the other Assistant Manager. Which
inspires a lot more confidence than some local chain where
"Johnny White-bread" ineptly serves you.

San Biagio's also serves Calzone, Stromboli, Meat Ball
Sandwich, Brooklyn Zeppoli (not sure what that is), spaghetti with
various toppings, Manacotti, Linguini With Clams, Baked Zitti,
Ravioli, Gnocchi, Spinach Tortellini, Meat Balls and Sausage.

Lunch for the two of us came to about $24.00.

San Biagio's
1263 W. 7th Street
(On the northwest corner in the Mountain Green shopping center)
Upland, CA 91786
(909) 946-9277
Domenico's Monrovia
236 West Huntington Drive
Monrovia, CA 91016
(626) 357-7975

San Biagio's
1263 W. 7th Street
(On the northwest corner in the Mountain Green shopping
center)
Upland, CA 91786
(909) 946-9277

Peppino’s
12959 Peyton Drive
Crossroads Marketplace
Highway 71 & Peyton Drive
Chino, Hills
909.627.9555
Peppino's WebSite
Peppino's: A Welcome Italian Alternative

December 26, 2005 at 19:20:24

In some respects the daughter of the Chino Wayne’s gets a bit of
a raw deal, in that her birthday is December 22, which means it
gets overshadowed by Christmas. But if you look at it another
way, it means that the celebrating gets to start a little early.
Having tried the new Chino Hills outpost of the small, family
owned, Orange County chain, Peppino’s recently, Chino Wayne,
in the continuation of his essential field work on the trail of
deliciousness, offered it as one of the options for The Daughter
to choose from for her birthday dinner. CW is fortunate in that The
Daughter has a lot of the same dining sensibilities as CW (for
example, unlike Mrs. Chino Wayne who prefers her meat cooked
to hockey puck consistency, The Daughter will actually eat meat
medium rare.) So even though four options were suggested, CW
knew that the birthday girl’s choice would be the Italian option,
and he could continue his research in to this new, local dining
venue.

In that Peppino’s is one of the few non-chain (from the
perspective of large, corporate, “cookie-cutter”, dining factory)
operations in Chino Hills gives it an immediate advantage in
Chino Wayne’s book. The fact that the closest “Italian” restaurant
to the Chino Waynes’ homestead other than Peppino’s is an
Olive Garden, really makes Peppino’s so much more enticing;
and of course the fact that there is a BevMo practically a hop, skip
and jump away from Peppino’s in the same shopping center, for
an after dining commissary run, is just icing on the cake.

Previously when the Mrs. and Chino Wayne had reconnoitered
Peppino’s it was a fairly busy Saturday evening. On that first visit
the Chino Waynes’ had sampled the dinner salad, antipasto
salad, scallops sautéed with a white wine sauce with linguine,
and a pepperoni and sausage pizza. In the visit last week on
Thursday evening, the restaurant was notably less busy and the
Chino Wayne clan ordered two dinner salads, and Chino Wayne
enjoyed another antipasto salad, entrées were baked ziti with a
meat sauce, manicotti, and a veal chop with a Marsala sauce.

Just the presence of an antipasto salad is one of the dishes that
can make or break an Italian restaurant for Chino Wayne. A lover
of “real” antipasto, (meaning all manner of prepared, cold
vegetables laid out on a large table, with some appropriate meat
and cheese accompaniments), when Chino Wayne comes
across anything remotely resembling the classic antipasto, in
the iceberg lettuce wasteland, his heart sings and his tummy
wakes up in anticipation.

The antipasto salad at Peppino’s consists of mixed lettuce, that
is actually green, sliced fresh tomatoes, roasted red peppers,
Bermuda onion, black olives, pepperoncinis, mozzarella cheese,
salame, mortadella, capaciola and proscuitto. The olives were
the canned sliced kind, which have very little taste, all of the other
ingredients were first rate. The salad was dressed with oil and
vinegar which is on every table, had the olives been whole, and
of a better quality this would be a truly outstanding salad, as it
was it was still very appreciated, especially in this neck of the
woods.

Fresh house baked bread, the generic “Italian” baguette and
focaccia and butter are brought to the table before the salads
arrive. When it is fresh, hot out of the oven, it is quite pleasant,
when it is not fresh, and has been sitting around; it gets stale
rapidly (probably because it is baked on premises and not
loaded with preservatives). Chino Wayne is surmising that the
busier the restaurant, the fresher the bread, that when business
is slow, the bread sits in the kitchen suffering the effects of
oxidation.

The baked ziti seemed to have a lot of ricotta mixed in it, and it
actually was not very appetizing looking in that condition, sort like
pasta with cottage cheese. The Mrs. did eat it all though, the
manicotti looked a little heavy to Chino Wayne, he did not taste
either of the baked pasta dishes.

The veal chop was good, if just a bit tough (a steak knife instead
of a butter knife would have been helpful, but at least at Peppino’
s they have heavy flat-ware, none of that really cheap, flimsy
stainless junk that the Chino Wayne’s have found at other, small,
family run operations). The chop came with a couple of
asparagus spears, a halved tomato, and four mushroom caps,
all of it drowning in Marsala sauce. A side of fettuccini Alfredo
came with the chop. The Marsala sauce was good, a nice sweat
Marsala flavor, but there was just too much of it, it overwhelmed
the meat, and the vegetables were soaking in it. The fettuccini
Alfredo was serviceable, although not quite “cheesy” enough, the
addition of black pepper helped it, but since pasta is a “no, no”
on The Liquid Diet, only about a third of it was consumed. Even
though Chino Wayne has had much finer renditions of both veal
chops, and veal Marsala at higher end establishments, he really
appreciated the opportunity to obtain such a classic, “grown up”
dish anywhere in the sphere of Chino/Chino Hills.

The small, thin crust, pepperoni and sausage pizza that were
sampled on the previous visit was excellent. The dough had a
good flavor, the crust puffed up with a bit of air, it was fairly light,
and the pie so much more flavorful than anything that can be
obtained from the local pizza chains. It is a given that on those
few and far between occasions when he will allow himself to
deviate from The Liquid Diet, that if that interlude is going to be
with local pizza, it will be a Peppino’s pie. The scallops on that
first visit were large, tender and fresh and thoroughly enjoyed by
CW.

The menu at Peppino’s is quite extensive and very ambitious in
Chino Wayne’s opinion for a small, family owned and operated
chain; CW is looking forward to exploring it fully, in many visits to
come. The décor of the restaurant is clean, simple and open.
There are some wide screen plasma TV’s on strategic walls, the
bar area is very cozy looking and is fully stocked, and CW had an
excellent view of the wide screen in the bar from his table in the
dining room. On neither visit did Chino Wayne notice a manager
or host/hostess on duty, and most of the staff are quite young,
and inexperienced, and were dressed sloppily. The service was
a bit uneven, if not earnest.

Even given all of the little negative issues, Chino Wayne has high
hopes for the success of this establishment in Chino Hills, it
really does have the potential for a much better Italian dining
experience than has been available in the immediate area.

CW does suggest that you peruse the menus at their website,
especially if you are a captive of The Dining Wilderness That Is
The Inland Empire:

http://www.peppinosonline.com/

Peppino’s
12959 Peyton Drive
Crossroads Marketplace
Highway 71 & Peyton Drive
Chino, Hills
909.627.9555