Maria's Italian Kitchen, located in the Hastings Ranch area of Pasadena at 3537 E. Foothill Blvd., is truly a family affair. The original Maria Alfano started cooking in her hometown of Hoboken, and then moved her family to California to cook for the Hollywood elite. With ten locations all over California, including Pasadena, Agoura Hills, Brentwood, Encino, Northridge, Santa Barbara, Sherman Oaks, Valencia, West Los Angeles, and Woodland Hills, they cater to the changing tastes of their customers. Serving food made from organic, fresh, homemade ingredients, they offer vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian meals as well as a huge variety of traditional regional Italian dishes.
Their chefs are constantly coming up with new dishes, like their fabulous fall offerings of pumpkin stuffed ravioli, their deliciously light pumpkin cheesecake and other fall favorites. For lunch, they serve chopped Italian salad, Caesar salad, Cleopatra salad (feta cheese, red onions, olives, tomatoes over Romaine lettuce with a balsamic dressing), BBQ chicken chopped salad, Asian chicken salad (teriyaki chicken breast, Napa cabbage, scallions, cilantro, shredded carrots, pineapple and wonton strips with their homemade Asian dressing), chopped antipasto salad, baby mixed screens and Gorgonzola salad, and turkey club salad, with prices ranging from $8.99 to $12.99.
They have a selection of Panini sandwiches and no less than nine hero sandwiches, served with a side dish of Italian fries or pasta salad. My favorite hero sandwich is their sausage and peppers sandwich which comes with homemade Italian sausage, sautéed peppers and onions, covered with marinara sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese for $10.99.
Of course, no Italian restaurant would be complete without pizza (seven varieties are offered or you can make your own combination pizza), calzone (a half-moon shaped pastry filled with your choice of cheese, spinach, sausage, peppers, onions, barbecue chicken, or you can create your own calzone), with prices ranging from $9.99 to $12.99.
Start your dinner with an appetizer, whether it be handmade zucchini fritti, broccoli limone, Capri salad, formaggio fritti (soft cheese that is breaded and quick fried), calamari fritti, garlic toast, a nice bowl of minestrone soup or their fresh soup of the day (ranging from $3.99 to $7.99).
The pasta dishes are simply out of this world, and include: spaghetti and meatballs, spaghetti with meat sauce, Bolognese sauce (meat sauce sautéed with mushrooms, onions, garlic and Marsala wine), smoked chicken ravioli served in a roasted red pepper cream sauce, meat ravioli stuffed with beef and pork, pasta carbonara served with Italian bacon, eggs, cream and peas, or their steak, mushroom and Chianti fettuccine (prices ranging from $9.99 to $17.99).
The vegetarians in your group have their choice of: eggplant Parmigiana, spaghetti with marinara sauce, pasta Alfredo (fresh cream with pecorino and Parmesan cheese), Gnocchi a la marinara (homemade dumplings stuffed with ricotta cheese), Aglio Olio (your choice of pasta sautéed with olive oil, garlic and chopped Italian parsley), ravioli à la marinara, vegetarian lasagna, baked mostaccioli, pasta pomodoro, cheese pizza, pasta Primavera, mushroom risotto, and my personal favorite, pasta Michelangelo (a heavenly dish of the best imported pasta cooked fresh and served with a mountain of sautéed mushrooms and spinach, in an olive oil and sliced garlic sauce), prices ranging from $9.99 to $12.99.
They offer a variety of baked dishes: eggplant Parmigiana, Mama's meat lasagna, vegetarian lasagna, baked mostaccioli (pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and eggplant, served with marinara sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese) and baked ziti (tube shaped pasta baked with ricotta cheese, meat sauce and mozzarella cheese), prices range from $10.99 to $11.99.
Chicken is prepared in 11 different ways, and they offer six low-carb/low calorie dishes, including: chicken breast, chicken Primavera, chicken Michelangelo (with spinach and mushrooms), pasta pomodoro (with Roma tomatoes, fresh basil and sliced garlic), pasta Primavera (pasta with freshly sautéed seasonal vegetables) and pasta Michelangelo. They also serve mushroom risotto, chicken Florentine risotto, and spicy shrimp and roasted corn risotto ($16.99 to $17.99).
The fish and seafood menu consists of a fresh fish of the day, calamari, shrimp Maria, shrimp fra Diavolo, shrimp Parmigiana, clams with linguine, mussels with linguine, and Pescatore with linguine (an Italian style seafood stew served over pasta), prices ranging from $16.99 to $20.99.
Their heavenly dessert selection includes: cookies, brownies, pecan bars, lemon bars, raspberry crumble bars, tiramisu bars, cannoli, classic cheesecake, a fabulous flourless chocolate cake, and apple crumb pie. Occasionally they bake a fluffy white coconut cake several layers high, and starting in the fall they offer a light, scrumptious pumpkin cheesecake that is not to be missed, prices for the desserts range from $.60 for the cookies, $2.99 for the brownies and bars, $6.99 for the cannoli, pie and cakes.
Maria's Italian Kitchen is all about fun, food and family, offering party bowl sized salads, the Muffaletta Party ring (sliced Italian meats and cheeses, with lettuce and fresh Roma tomatoes, served on an 18 inch ring of sesame bread) that feeds 20 people for $69.99, and family meals that feed 6-8 people that include your choice of one main entrée, Italian or Caesar salad, a 12 inch cheese pizza and their freshly baked rosemary bread (prices ranging from $44.99 to $68.99, depending on the entrée you choose.) For even larger events you can call their catering department at 818-786-4833, extension 207.
Maria's Italian Kitchen gives you a choice of indoor dining or a covered outdoor area for dining, and has a small sports bar with a wide screen TV. The Pasadena location hours are: Sunday- Thursday from 11:30am – 9pm, Friday and Saturday from 11:30am-10pm. They also offer take-out and delivery, for more information you can call 626-351-2080 or visit their website.