Blast From the Pasta

Posted July 9, 2009 in Eats

Italian is one of those cuisines that is best served home-made. It’s also one of the rare foods that can be dished up for a dress-code enforced night out or served chilled for a late night movie in a T-shirt and sweats. It has been Americanized, fused and criticized in the culinary world. For something that is so recognized and can fill so many palette niches, it’s a wonder that everybody’s favorite Italian restaurant is unknown or a hidden gem waiting to be uncovered. 


In the heart of a relatively new shopping center in Fontana is one of those hidden gems: Paisano Ristorante Italiano. Hidden in a corner on the edge of the parking lot, Paisano is almost impossible to find. If you weren’t looking particularly for the restaurant, chances are you’d pass it faster than a mole would. And even harder to find than the restaurant is a parking space near it. 


But once inside, Paisano embodies the perfect Italian cuisine atmosphere suitable for both a dressed-up nights and casual dinners with friends. The restaurant is small but not suffocating. The booths along the walls and tables in the center allow for either an intimate night out or lively group gathering. But for the most part, the restaurant is said to remain relatively quiet.


Like many Italian restaurants, Paisano offers a long list of wines with whites, blushes, reds and desserts ranging from $6 to $10 a glass with the highest priced bottle at $150, offering an elegant touch without necessarily breaking your wallet. While the wine list is heavily populated with the most commonly served wines, it does not disappoint, fitting perfectly somewhere between formal and casual dining. 


Paisano also serves complimentary bread sticks that top that of any served in Italian restaurants in its class. Sometimes the little things make a big difference, especially if you end up waiting too long for your food. But this was not the case at Paisano. Food arrived about 30 to 45 minutes after the order was placed and was hardly noticed as bread, soups and salads were promptly served.


The Zuppa del Giorno, or soup of the day for Wednesday, was a potato soup lightly garnished with a hint of bacon flavor served at the perfect temperature. While the soup was delightful, the salads were even more of a pleasant surprise. A mix of greens, tomatoes and red onions served with the restaurant’s Italian dressing on the side, the salad was a great starter—not too filling but full of flavor, the dressing even made for a good bread stick dipping sauce. 


Although Paisano’s menu can be viewed online, the restaurant also offers dishes excluded from the list. One of those dishes is the blackened salmon special served with mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley, not a common Italian dish but delicious nonetheless. The salmon was cooked just right; it crumbled in your month. Even the carrots and zucchinis were tasty surprises. While side vegetables are usually bland and often discarded, these were flavorful and great as buffers against too much fish. Another dish not on the web version of the menu is the lobster ravioli. With nice chunks of lobster, a creamy white sauce topped with spinach and shiitake mushrooms, the raviolis is one of those dishes perfect for any kind of night, subtle yet full of zest.


Another online-only dish is the Pollo Alla Parmigiana, a breaded boneless and skinless chicken breast baked with marinara sauce, parmesan and mozzarella cheese, served with spaghetti. While the spaghetti wasn’t too noticeable, the chicken wasn’t too dry, but tender and full of flavor. Another well-known, web menu item is the pizza and while paying anything more than $10 for a pie doesn’t seem worth it, if you’re a fan and looking for an upscale twist, Paisano’s pizza might be worth the try. Otherwise, there are better options on the menu.


All in all, this little hidden gem deserves to be uncovered.


Paisano Ristorante Italiano, 15258 Summit Ave., Suite 400, Fontana, (909) 803-2100; dinner, 4-9PM. AE, D, MC, V.


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