Mi casa is La Piccola Casa

In case you missed it, here’s my review of La Piccola Casa that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.

Sometimes I want nothing more than a quick, casual dinner out. Downtown Pacific Grove doesn’t have too many restaurants that dish up good food quickly and without a big dent on your wallet.

From pizzas to pasta, La Piccola Casa is a great spot to grab a quick, casual dinner in PG.

But La Piccola Casa is a rare exception — and one that’s quickly becoming my go-to spot for dinner, casual or otherwise.

La Piccola Casa is the sister pizzeria for Joe Rombi’s La Mia Cucina restaurant. This little pizzeria easily outshines the more formal — and pricier — restaurant a couple doors down.

Pizza is the star of the menu at La Piccola Casa. The pizzas, served as individual pies, start with a crispy, thin focaccia-like crust. This crust gives the pizza a flavor that’s unique from other shops around town, but one that might not be as appreciated by diehard pizza purists. (I know one who declared this to be glorified flatbread, not true pizza.) I for one like the crispy crust, even if lately it’s been a tad too crispy when I’ve ordered it.

My favorite pizza is the Famous Mauro, with prosciutto and red onions, topped with fresh arugula and Parmesan cheese ($9.95).

The Famous Mauro is hands-down the best pizza on the menu--and possibly one of the best in town!

The combination of salty prosciutto, sweet onions and bitter arugula is unique, stimulating all parts of the palate.

La Piccola Casa’s spin on the simple Margherita pizza ($7.95) is also mighty tasty. The tomatoes are so flavorful, served with lots of gooey cheese, in an American twist to this Italian classic.

The Margherita pizza is tasty--and tastier with meat. I've tried it with pepperoni and, most recently, sausage.

I’ll sometimes order mine with meat—pepperoni is a nice addition to add some salt to cut through the sweet tomatoes.

Alas, I wasn't crazy about the Crazy for Mushrooms.

The other night I ordered the Crazy for Mushrooms pizza ($9.95), with mushrooms, spinach and pancetta. Using mushrooms and spinach made for a pungent pizza that was too earthy in flavor for my tastes. And the cubes of pancetta were overcooked and rock hard.

But don’t let the pizzeria moniker fool you — it’s not just pizza here. La Piccola Casa offers a couple of pasta dishes, including my favorite, the eggplant parmigiana ($9.95).

The humble eggplant parmigiana easily bests the pricey plates of pasta at other Italian restaurants in town.

This is hands-down the best eggplant parm in town. The eggplant is cut so thin and tender. The sauce is rich, with sweet tomato accents and savory herbs. It’s topped with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan making for the perfect plate of comfort food.

Up close and personal with the eggplant parmigiana!

It’s not just the charm of the simple food that’s drawn me to La Piccola Casa, it’s the charm of the host, too. Oscar is quite the fixture at the front counter, making you feel like you’ve stepped into his home for dinner.

La Piccola Casa is branching out beyond dinner fare. They’ve long offered lunch, serving panini in addition to the dinnertime menu of salads and pizzas. And they’ve recently expanded into café territory now.

They bought a fancy new espresso machine and they’re serving Acme coffee, as well as pastries and cookies. I haven’t yet tried their sweet pastry offerings, but the latte Oscar made me the other day was nice and bold.

Tucked off the main drag of Lighthouse, La Piccola Casa is one of Pacific Grove’s hidden gems that’s worth a closer look.

Joe Rombi’s La Piccola Casa, 212 17th St., Pacific Grove, 373-0129, joerombi.com/Joe_Rombi/La_Piccola_Casa.html

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