Food options at South Coast Plaza seem to increase every time I visit. Recently, we stopped into Casa Barilla for a quick lunch and were delighted by what we found. I’m familiar with Barilla pasta, and have used it on many an occasion at home. What I didn’t know is that the company has opened cafes in the US, which feature their pastas, along with other favorable menu items the whole family can enjoy.
We were lucky enough to speak with Executive Chef Alfonso Sanna, who was overseeing the kitchen, and operations. The restaurant was running a special on the day of our visit. Red Lentil Penne ($11.95) is one of those great pastas perfect for those who are on a gluten-free diet. We’ve been using chickpea flour pasta lately, and my son really enjoys it. In fact, he really enjoyed this red lentil penne pasta, made completely with red lentil flour. The promotion ended last month, but I’m hoping they will bring it back permanently so that those with dietary restrictions may enjoy pasta as well. This particular dish uses sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, Calabrian chiles, garlic and toasted almonds.
I love soup, and Pasta e Fagioli ($3.95/$5.50) here is slightly different to what I’m familiar with. Usually, it is a brothy soup packed with ingredients such as beans, pasta, meat and vegetables. At Casa Barilla, Chef Alfonso has taken the liberty to puree everything except the beans and elbow macaroni, to produce a thicker, creamier texture, without the use of dairy. We thoroughly enjoyed this very hearty, and extremely flavorful soup, and I especially loved that it was dairy-free.
Linguine Vesuvio ($12.95) is a dish right up my alley. A tomato-based pasta, it is dotted with calamari, shrimp, capers, and olives, which reminds me of a kicked-up Puttanesca without the anchovies. The hint of heat adds to the savoriness of the dish.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the pizza, but our Rustica ($9.50/$14.50) is so much better than I’d expected. At first glance, the pizza resembles flatbread, but the dough is crispy on the outside, and slightly soft on the inside. It is hard to describe, but the texture is surprisingly pleasant, topped with spicy tomato, mozzarella, bell peppers, and Italian sausage.
Craving a salad? Insalatona Salmone ($13.95) is a great choice, especially if you’re looking for added protein to bulk up your meal. The House Mediterranean salad is tossed in a bright lemon dressing, and accompanied with a piece of grilled salmon. I love the beans in the salad, but wanted more red onions — I’ll have to remember that the next time I visit!
Casa Barilla is a solid, fast-casual eatery that will appeal to everyone. The kids can get pizza AND pasta without breaking the bank, and portions are generous. Best of all, everything arrives pretty quickly, so remember this when you’re out holiday shopping but still want a tasty meal without sacrificing time to do so. I look forward to coming back here soon.
**The restaurant is located directly below Din Tai Fung**
3333 Bristol Street
Plaza Level 1
Costa Mesa, CA 92626